Since it first started spreading at the end of 2019, Covid-19 has become a global pandemic in only the past several months. In the past weeks the United States has become the world’s coronavirus worst coronavirus hotspot. The pandemic has started to penetrate American life day by day with a worsening death toll that now stands at more than 5,100.
Soon, the crisis started to become the most important political topic in the United States as the death toll and number of cases continued to rise without any signs of stopping. The pandemic spawned on the eve of a critical political juncture in the United States as the country is set to elect a president in November. But how is the Covid-19 pandemic expected to influence the U.S. presidential election?
Covid-19 tests Trump’s Leadership Skills
In the beginning of the Republican primary vote, the re-election of President Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate was almost certain and he was banking on a strong economy to put him back in office. The real struggle during this process for Trump became the Covid-19 pandemic. The slow spread in the beginning was a relief for the United States and even Trump downplayed it. As the spread started to pick up at a faster pace, Trump’s handling of the issue became a key question for many Americans. His controversial comments over the pandemic, combined with the deteriorating U.S. economy, were criticized by many voters and analysts.
However, Trump’s acts radically changed once the pandemic started to become a really big problem for the United States. It is questionable whether Trump’s plans were too little or too late, but he called himself a “wartime President,” as the pandemic was becoming more deadly day by day to indicate that he was taking it seriously. Trump’s tone changed drastically in mid-March and since then he started to activate all the necessary tools to tackle it. The Trump administration quickly issued new guidelines to tackle the virus and restricted large gatherings.
The Trump administration also signed an unprecedented economic stimulus package to tackle the disease called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The $2 trillion stimulus plan shows both the dangers and the need for such a huge measure to tackle the issue. As we can see from his moves, President Trump is aware that this may cost him his presidency and now he is changing his strategy to secure his re-election in November 2020.
Democrats Hope for Breakthrough
Former Vice President Joe Biden was the clear favorite to face Donald Trump in November and had been winning most of the states during the primaries. With increasing support from the moderate wing of the Democrats, Biden started to emerge as the favorite candidate to win the Democratic primaries ahead of competitor Bernie Sanders.
Biden started to focus on Covid-19 early on and he stressed during his debate against Sanders on March 16 that this was “a war to face.” Since then, Biden has criticized the Trump administration, saying that it lacks the necessary measures to slow the number of cases in the US. Despite Biden’s early and decisive stance on the pandemic, the former Vice President has faced criticism for remaining out of sight during the outbreak apart from several underwhelming and somewhat bizarre television appearances. His absence is even being mocked on social media with a new hashtag #WhereIsJoe. In the coming days, Biden needs to show his determination and leadership abilities if he wants to prove that he is the right man to guide the country at this difficult time.
Sanders was experiencing a troublesome primary period when the Covid-19 outbreak became a real problem for the United States. He was losing almost all the primary votes despite his strong fundraising numbers. Most of the commentators were considering this to be the end of Sanders’ campaign. His last debate against Biden in Washington wasn’t enough to change voters’ minds amid the coronavirus crisis. Sanders repeatedly pushed for his Medicare for All plan during the debate, stressing that the American healthcare system needs a radical change. Biden slammed Sanders’ plans by saying “people are looking for results, not a revolution.”
However, Sanders has remained relatively more active than Biden during the outbreak. Of course, after accumulating so many losses, it would be difficult for Sanders to obtain a comeback, but his ideas and vision may be an important tool in making a breakthrough during this moment of crisis.
Running for the White House During Covid-19
It is still difficult to say whether the ongoing pandemic may be more favorable for Republicans or Democrats. Many uncertainties remain ahead of November’s presidential election. It may be appropriate to say that Trump’s continuous appearances in front of the public provides him the opportunity to prove his leadership skills. Trump’s fight against Covid-19 may have started in a way that attracted a lot of criticism, but it is clear that his way of handling the issue completely changed over time and polls show him performing very strongly against the Democrats in the upcoming election.
It is important to remember that Trump’s surging popularity is also closely linked to the absence of both Biden and Sanders as both of them fail to remain front-and-center during this crisis. In Biden’s case, his failure to find a way to effectively communicate with voters may even cause him to struggle in his party’s primary despite his advantage over Sanders. The Democrats need to regain their visibility — and fast — or this will be Trump’s year.