An ill wind won't sway diehards

Editorial | Mary Ma 5 Oct 2020

A snap poll by CNN pointed to a large winning margin for Democratic challenger Joe Biden after the first presidential debate. Most gaming sites revealed similar odds.

But things seem to have stopped since President Donald Trump became infected with Covid-19.

As Biden withheld campaign ads aimed at demonizing Trump, the gaming sector followed suit. Betting odds were removed, pending clarity over Trump's condition.

The question most asked is whether Trump's coronavirus infection will have an impact on the outcome of next month's election.

Usually, a dramatic incident has a dramatic effect. The so-called 3.19 shooting incident in Taiwan in 2004 changed the course of Taiwan's presidential election, handing a second term to pro-independence incumbent Chen Shui-bian.

The incident was dramatic because the shooting was more like a drama than an assassination attempt on Chen.

Trump's infection could not have been self-directed as some conspiracy theorists are likely to believe. It's simply impossible to fake illness unless everybody in the medical team is also part of a conspiracy, which is next to impossible.

Credible reports of Republican politicians and Trump staff testing positive should be more than sufficient to dispel such thinking.

Yes, it's evil to keep cursing someone who is ill. In this light, it was smart of Biden's campaign to pull election ads designed to capitalize on the pandemic crisis in the US to portray Trump as being entirely unfit for office.

However, this election is extraordinary and different from past presidential battles.

Although it is officially a match between Trump and Biden, it is actually a poll of Trump diehard fans versus Trump diehard foes.

Biden is lagging behind here as Trump's Covid illness will cause neither his fans nor his foes to have a change of heart.

Over the next couple of days, there will probably be either a deterioration in Trump's health or a recovery.

The popularity of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson - who almost died of the virus - rose during his hospitalization.

But this is not being reflected in Trump's case.

No matter which scenario develops, there are unlikely to be many sympathy votes for Trump.

If Taiwan's Chen had the good fortune to have experienced a dramatic episode on the eve of the election, Trump will not be as lucky with his single incident.

On the contrary, Americans still in the middle ground may be tempted to query whether Trump could protect his fellow nationals if he could not protect even his inner circle.

From the start, Trump did not take the virus seriously, resisting wearing masks while holding Beijing responsible for the global spread of the virus.

When the virus was still raging, he was among the world's first to reopen his country's economy.

Should his diehard supporters also be disillusioned in light of this? They should, but they won't.

Although Trump's illness will unlikely affect the choice of voters, it does generate uncertainty in the financial markets.

It's more likely than not that stock markets will become more volatile than anticipated this pre-election month.

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