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Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis spotlights his campaign's 'biggest pre-existing weakness': Analyst

President Trump has returned to the White House following his release from the hospital. Eurasia U.S. Analyst Jeff Wright joins the On the Move panel to discuss.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Let's start with President Trump and Washington because, of course, he did return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center late yesterday, released a promotional video, and made some comments from the White House.

DONALD TRUMP: And I learned so much about coronavirus. And one thing that's for certain-- don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it. You're going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines all developed recently. And you're going to beat it.

JULIE HYMAN: Let's bring in Jeffrey Wright now. He is with the Eurasia Group there. He's the US analyst. Jeff, as you listen those comments, I know that the president has been getting a lot of flack over sort of being too blase about the virus. His supporters would say he was sort of striking an optimistic tone about our ability to move past it. But how does all of this play, when it comes to his re-election campaign?

JEFF WRIGHT: I think the obvious answer is we don't know yet. We'll see. But I think the big risk for Trump is that this compounds his biggest pre-existing weakness in this campaign, which is the coronavirus and his handling of the pandemic. It also kind of personalizes it in a way. You know, if before voters were sort of unconvinced that he'd done a good job in handling it as the head of the government, he's, I think, pretty clearly done a very poor job in keeping it out of his own office and, you know, away from him the closest people to him. So I think it's-- you know, it's a huge political negative for now.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And we know that there-- what they call a sympathy bounce from his getting ill. So let's assume that he is on the road to recovery, strong and ready, as he says, to debate next week. Does he get some kind of recovery bounce, do you think?

JEFF WRIGHT: I doubt it. The US is so sharply polarized now that almost nothing moves polls. So you know, I think it's possible. There are some examples from abroad, from Boris Johnson and Bolsonaro in Brazil. But the situation in the US is much different. And I think, you know, the caveat you made in the beginning, let's assume that he's out of the woods, that's a big assumption. Because given what we know about the course of COVID and a lot of patients, you know, he may still have a week or more of potentially, you know, symptomatic time and potentially contagious time as well.

EMILY MCCORMICK: Jeffrey, just taking a look at the next four weeks or so, what would you say is the importance of whether or not President Donald Trump is actually able to debate in person, whether those actually go forward as planned as live events or as virtual events? Who stands to gain, whether or not these actually happened as they were previously scheduled?

JEFF WRIGHT: It's a good question. I would suspect that if you're the Biden campaign today, keeping Biden as far away as possible from Trump or anyone else with coronavirus is probably a huge priority. So I'm skeptical myself that these will go forward in person, but it seems like Trump wants to press that issue. I think in general, the place to start with debates is that they almost never change the trajectory of campaigns. There are a few exceptions, but they're pretty rare. So that would be my baseline here.

I think if Trump can debate and does seem to be recovered by the 15th of October, then, you know, there's some potential upside for him, certainly with Republicans who already are sort of predisposed to believe that the virus is not as bad as the media says it is and so forth. But I think with the swing voters that are going to decide the election, I mean, this is still a big negative, regardless of how quickly he recovers.

MELODY HAHM: And Jeffrey-- [INAUDIBLE] sort of perception and the potential for whether it's a Biden presidency or Trump getting re-elected, but what about our geopolitical standing? What are sort of the ultimate scenarios? I know it sounds like fear mongering. But at one point, America was not the global leader, right? So when you think about the way that we've dealt with this virus and Trump being at the helm, how do you envision our standing in the world really changing and perhaps transforming after this virus?

JEFF WRIGHT: Oh, I think it's a black eye. I mean, there's no question about that. The fact that Trump has been unserious about it from the beginning and now that has come directly into the West Wing of the White House, I think, you know, there's no way to spin that that isn't a problem for the US. I think, you know, if you're optimistic about Trump's chances, you can say that by recovering quickly, he sort of-- you know, he helps illustrate to his base what he's been saying all along, which is, you know, the virus not a big deal. We should be worried about the economy. As I say, I think that's a big if. And if he were to return to the hospital over the next-- you know, this coming week or next weekend, I think that would be very difficult to recover from in the time that he has left between now and Election Day.

JULIE HYMAN: Jeff, finally, I do want to ask you about stimulus, which is also something that is sort of hanging over Washington. What are the current prospects-- and timeline, for that matter-- of getting something done there?

JEFF WRIGHT: It's a good question. It's one of many things that have been sort of upended by Trump's news. So you know, the immediate impact is that Mnuchin is really in charge on stimulus and, you know, sort of-- he clearly wants a deal. And I think, to some extent, Pelosi does as well.

We're still skeptical that it gets done before the election. But I think the scenario that we may see emerging is that you get a deal announced, potentially as soon as this week, between Pelosi and Mnuchin, but the sort of disinterest in that deal from Senate Republicans keeps it from getting done before the election, and then they return to it in the lame duck.