Trump may play illness card to strengthen base, attract voters: observers

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By Shan Jie Source: Global Times

Photo: VCG

US President Donald Trump has been making use of his COVID-19 infection to keep himself in the media spotlight to strengthen his base and stimulate more votes for him, Chinese observers said, after the president left the hospital only after three days, noting that he will possibly use his condition in the crucial stage before the November 3 election.

Trump returned to the White House after being hospitalized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since Friday, telling the American public on Twitter “Don’t let it (COVID-19) dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it.”

Analysts said Trump’s swift healing from COVID-19 could be his card in the second debate on October 15 and the remaining days before the election. With only 4 weeks to go before the vote, for some Americans, seeing the president recover from COVID-19 in merely three days is even more exciting than seeing a vaccine come out.

Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said that Trump’s team will make use of his infection. “They will choose the script based on his infection and healing.”

However, many Americans are still in the process of untangling the White House’s confusing timeline about Trump’s diagnosis and symptoms, and there are still questions about the exact state of Trump’s health.

Diao noted that Trump’s hospitalization has been “dramatic.” He went to the military hospital, showed him working in the ward, and then rapidly recovering. Every day he was staying in the spotlight, like what he had planned, Diao said.

“This will likely strengthen his supporters and motivate them to vote for him,” Diao told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Trump wants his discharge to alleviate American people’s anxiety and boost US economy amid the pandemic,” Yuan Zheng, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Making himself a “hero” confronting COVID-19, he might be able to consolidate the right wing base and to some extent influence the swing voters, Yuan said.

Trump campaign’s narrative on “COVID-19 is not that horrible” has continued right after his discharge from hospital.

“Trump’s fast recovery will encourage his supporters, whose confidence in the president will grow,” said Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China. “He wants to tell people that the COVID-19 could be beaten and the US has great medical resources.”

But Trump’s latest twitter post on COVID-19 immediately drew public fury Monday night.

Chris Evans, the actor who played Captain America, tweeted that “Don’t be afraid of Covid?! You’ve been under round-the-clock care by the best doctors using the best drugs. Do you really think everyone has access to that?!”

“Trump is giving his middle finger to science and the lives of those around him,” another Twitter user wrote.

Contrast to Trump, Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden showed a different attitude toward the disease, sending a message that he cares more about the health of ordinary Americans.

“Our nation’s COVID crisis is far, far from over,” Biden said on Monday during the campaign in Florida. He then tweeted “Wear a mask,” accompanied with a photo of Trump taking off his surgical face mask at the White House after discharged from the military hospital.

A latest poll shows Biden with a 10 point lead nationwide over Trump, with many Americans saying President Trump could have better handled the COVID-19 outbreak if he took it seriously in the first place, Reuters reported on Sunday.

“Trump cares more about the impending general election and he is nervous about his current situation. He might not win, so he’d better return to the campaign battle as soon as possible,” Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

He seemed desperate to leave the hospital, because winning the election means everything for him — he wants to meet and talk to voters face to face, Li said. Also, he has to make all efforts so that his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the US supreme court could be approved by the Senate.

Even infected with the coronavirus, Trump did not stop his work for his reelection, Li said.

“Trump might not be fully recovered yet from the illness yet, but his adventurous personality always pushes him to gamble,” Li said. “He bets with his personal health and his political career too.”

“Trump believes he could win. However according to my knowledge, big gamble doesn’t end well,” Li said.

The death toll of COVID-19 in the US surpassed 210,000 on Monday, accounting for more than one-fifth in the world. The total confirmed cases in the country have exceeded 7.45 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University statistics.

“Now we have witnessed the first ‘October surprise,’ and, we will see if playing the illness card could twist the (election) situation in the end,” Yuan said.

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