Campaign in Deep Freeze: Trump COVID Test Locks Down Race

President Trump exits the Oval Office as he departs on campaign travel in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

For a moment, it looked like America could play pretend that an almost-normal presidential race would occupy the final weeks of this election.

The incumbent and his challenger joined for a live television debate, marred by interruptions and shameful name-calling as it was. Joe Biden’s campaign reversed course and determined it would, in fact, start door-knocking (after insisting doing so in a pandemic would be dangerous and politically counter-productive).

Those are two things that normally happen in election-season democracy . . . right?

But the wee-hours news of President Trump’s positive coronavirus test has frozen the race in place. The president is postponing, for now, all his planned events – or taking them virtual.

See this statement from Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien:

“All previously announced campaign events involving the President’s participation are in the process of being moved to virtual events or are being temporarily postponed.  In addition, previously announced events involving members of the First Family are also being temporarily postponed. All other campaign events will be considered on a case-by-case basis and we will make any relevant announcements in the days ahead. Vice President Mike Pence, who has tested negative for COVID-19, plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events. Any further information about the President will come from the White House.”

A stunning, albeit medically expected, turn for a president who at first insisted on holding full-scale rallies and has since gotten into the groove of holding pep sessions next to airports and other such environs.

So . . .

What will happen to the debates?

What will happen to Supreme Court confirmation hearings that had promised to energize the respective bases?

How will Biden adjust his approach, if at all?

All these questions remain, of course, unanswered. And if we’ve learned anything about 2020, it’s been not to dare place bets.

As of Friday afternoon, Biden has tested negative. But by this twist of fate, his basement-lurking, presser-avoiding, canvass-shunning campaign is now the benchmark.

And once again, what we have is anything but normal.

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