Change in plans
As if this campaign season were not chaotic enough, President Donald Trump's reported positive COVID-19 test throws in still more shocks. Among other things, it upends Trump's campaign schedule and has the potential for strengthening a key message that Democratic challenger Joe Biden has been making: The virus is serious stuff.
Since the pandemic began, Trump has accused Biden of "hiding in his basement," while Trump recently resumed in-person and crowded indoor rallies where many of his supporters shunned masks.
Now the roles are reversed. Trump is said to be sidelined with the virus in quarantine at the White House residence and Welter Reed Medical Center. Biden, having tested negative Friday after being on a debate stage with Trump on Tuesday, is back on the trail, with his mask on and in a socially distanced — and responsible — way.
But GOP fundraisers like Dan Eberhart don't miss a trick. Already Eberhart is working Trump supporters with emails, suggesting the reversal could cost Trump heavily, according to USA Today.
"Trump is a high-energy president with a giant personality. Without his persona, the campaign is missing its energy source to run its (get-out-the-vote program) and cash machine," Eberhart wrote Wednesday, according to USA Today. "Trump's one advantage over Biden is that he generates lots of free earned media. He's everywhere, all the time. Is he still going to be able to move the media like before if he's quarantined? Probably not."
(Don't you wonder how he knew to write that email on Wednesday since the Trump team's timeline was that the president wasn't tested until late Thursday night and he didn't announce his positive status until the wee hours of Friday morning?)
The Trump campaign also early Friday cancelled a rally planned in Florida later that day, as well as a planned fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Ditto for a planned Wisconsin visit over the weekend.
Meanwhile Biden was expected to visit Grand Rapids, Michigan, for two in-person events, and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, planned a stumping trip to Las Vegas.
Follow the money
And then there's the economy. Perhaps if Trump's positive COVID-19 test won't turn around his sluggish attitude about the virus, surely its effect on jobs and dollars would jolt him and our other elected leaders, wouldn't you think?
On Friday, we learned that job growth slowed still further in September amid fading government support for families and businesses and coupled with our government's failure to contain the coronavirus. The combination threatens to short-circuit what had seemed a hint of mid-summer improvement in economic recovery.
Employers brought back 661,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department said. But that is down from 1.5 million in August, and far below the 4.8 million jobs added in June. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9%, in part, however, due to nearly 700,000 people leaving the labor force, altogether.
Because we have been unable to control this pandemic, about 31 million unemployed people by the beginning of August already were receiving some form of jobless assistance — the indicator most widely believed to tell the real unemployment story.
Additional government data released on Thursday showed that personal income fell in August and consumer spending grew more slowly as supplemental unemployment benefits expired. Adding more concern, companies including Disney, Allstate and two major airlines have recently announced large job cuts.
"It's disturbing that we're seeing such a dramatic slowdown in employment gains as we head into the fall," Diane Swonk, chief economist for the accounting firm Grant Thornton, told The New York Times. "This is a red flag. We need aid now."
Yet still, the partisan sides of Congress can't agree on a relief package and a nervous world stock market chilled trades when Trump tweeted the news of his positive COVID test.
Where's the remote?
Is there a bright side? Maybe. Tell the truth — how many times have you hit the mute button when Donald Trump was talking?
Sure, you waited until you knew what he was talking about — assuming you could discern what he was talking about since too many of the words that come out of his mouth don't really make sense. More often than not, you likely just muted him. Or you changed the station. Or you flipped off the TV. Maybe you even threw the remote down and huffed off in disgust.
After Tuesday's chaotic and disastrous presidential debate when Trump's incessant interruptions wore everyone out, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, thankfully, announced it is giving some consideration to allowing the moderators of the next three debates to take some form of that muting action for us if either candidate acts as Trump did last week.
Now, with Trump's positive test for COVID-19, time will tell if those debates — scheduled Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah; Oct. 15 in Miami, and Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville — will even occur.
We may be spared that pain, at least.