As Biden storms ahead in polls, what does Trump’s Covid-19 case mean for the election’s final stretch?

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Signs left by supporters of President Donald Trump at the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre (AP)
Signs left by supporters of President Donald Trump at the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre (AP)

Joe Biden has surged ahead in the polls as the October surprise of President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis threw the final leg of the 2020 election into uncertainty.

In a new poll, conducted after the first presidential debate but before Mr Trump’s Covid-19 announcement, Mr Biden extended his national lead over Mr Trump by a two-to-one margin.

The Democratic candidate leads the president by 14 points, 53 to 39 per cent, up from an eight-point pre-debate lead, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of registered voters.

That gives Mr Biden his largest lead in national opinion polling in the 2020 election campaign.

It was driven by almost half of all voters (49 per cent) who thought Mr Biden did a better job in the first debate, compared to just 24 per cent who favoured Mr Trump.

But that poll was taken on 1 October, the day before Mr Trump tweeted that he and first lady Melania are suffering from Covid-19. The president was flown to Walter Reed Medical Centre on Friday to be treated.

While the president could be discharged as soon as Monday, confusion grows over the extent of his symptoms after the White House physician revealed more details on the president’s treatment.

After previously refusing to answer whether Mr Trump received any oxygen on Saturday, Dr Sean Conley said on Sunday that the president was given supplemental oxygen to combat a drop in blood oxygen level.

Mr Biden has tested negative for Covid-19Getty
Mr Biden has tested negative for Covid-19Getty

Dr Conley said the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94 per cent on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday.

With confusion over the severity of Mr Trump's condition and symptoms, questions remain over whether the second presidential debate will take place in two weeks.

Mr Biden’s team confirmed on Sunday that he would be there.

“We are looking forward to the debate in Miami on 15 October and it’s a town hall, and Joe Biden loves a good town hall,” campaign adviser Symond Sanders said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“We hope the president is able to participate, and that is up to his doctors to clear him. But Joe Biden will be at that debate.”

The president’s team posted a video update on Saturday night from Walter Reed seeking to reassure the nation that he would return to work “soon”, saying he’s feeling “much better now”.

“We’re working hard to get me all the way back,” Mr Trump said in the video, his most recent public remarks in front of a camera. “I have to be back because we still have to make America great again.”

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, however, told reporters earlier on Saturday that “we’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery”.

Supporters gathered at the military medical centre over the weekend, leaving “get well soon” messages outside. Others were holding rallies and vigils around the country with MAGA flags and chants of “we love Trump”.

It didn’t go unnoticed, with Mr Trump tweeting: “Thank you so much!”. The president started his second morning in hospital on Twitter, retweeting a message from supporters Diamond and Silk and endorsements of conservative Senate candidates.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, told CBS’s Face the Nation that he had spoken with Mr Trump on Sunday morning and that, while he feels well and wants to get back to work at the White House, “he’s going to stay at Walter Reed for at least another period of time”.

Mr Biden, meanwhile, has tested negative for Covid-19. His team says they will increase testing and release every result.

While the Biden campaign has not been directly contacted by the Trump administration over the Covid-19 exposure, Ms Sanders said the former vice president was not exposed.

The Trump campaign also hasn’t contacted Ohio governor Mike DeWine over contact tracing after his team traveled to Cleveland for the presidential debate two days before the president announced he had Covid-19.

“Well, they’ve not reached out to me. I talked to the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic the other day and he gave me an update, gave me a report so I don’t know if they reached out to Cleveland Clinic or not, but they’ve not talked to me about it,” Mr DeWine told CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

Chris Wallace said that the president wasn’t tested before the debate, meaning it went ahead on the honour system that his campaign tested him before travel.

It is unclear what the exact testing procedures of the debate commission were for attendees, or of the Cleveland Clinic where the event took place.

The Biden/Harris campaign has asked for new safety restrictions for the 7 October vice presidential debate with Mike Pence this week.

The distance between the candidates will be increased significantly, even as both VP candidates have tested negative for coronavirus. In addition to the debate, Mr Pence plans to continue campaigning with rallies across the country in the coming days.

While it hasn’t been determined where the president contracted the virus, Amy Coney Barrett’s supreme court nomination ceremony in the White House Rose Garden last weekend is being eyed as a “super-spreader” event.

The list of those in Mr Trump’s inner circle who have tested positive for the coronavirus continues to grow, with his “body man”, Nicholas Luna, testing positive hours after Mr Trump and first lady Melania, according to a report by Bloomberg.

As the president’s personal assistant, Mr Luna’s duties place him close to the president as he hands over official documents and travels to presidential events. Mr Luna attended the debate in Cleveland.

Most Americans (65 per cent) think this could have all been avoided if only the president took the pandemic “more seriously”.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the president’s diagnosis found 9 in 10 Democrats, and 5 in 10 Republicans, agreed Mr Trump “probably would not have been infected” if he had followed the public health rules.

Comedians on Saturday Night Live didn’t pause in their skewering of the president, with Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey doing their impersonations of the Trump-Biden debate, while Chris Rock said his “heart goes out to Covid”.

The Biden campaign decided to pause negative ads while Mr Trump fights the coronavirus, a decision that sparked criticism from Democrats like Rep Ilhan Omar, who said the Trump campaign would not have done the same.

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