WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s return to the White House is poised to reshape the campaign’s final four weeks as aides debated Tuesday how to move past an extraordinary setback while grappling with how to send an infected president back on the road.
A race that had remained steady throughout the tumult of 2020 now threatens to slip away from the president after he spent 72 hours hospitalized with COVID-19, the very disease that has fundamentally altered the country he leads and the campaign he wanted to run. And as Democrat Joe Biden stood on one of the nation’s most hallowed grounds to call for national unity, the president, in his first full day back in the executive mansion, plunged Washington into further chaos by abruptly ending coronavirus relief talks.
Trump had stage-managed his dramatic, if reckless, reentry to the White House — tearing off his mask before stepping back inside Monday — and was pushing aides to return to the campaign trail as soon as possible, including to next week’s second debate against Biden. But as the president remained contagious, his health under careful watch, a division emerged between aides over how to manage the fallout.
Some believed the moment could act as a late reset, allowing the president to draw from his own experiences to at last show empathy for those affected by a pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans, left millions unemployed and sent his poll numbers tumbling.
But others believed that abruptly changing course after seven months of projecting strength over the virus wouldn’t work and instead advocated for intensifying the message as a means to further fire up the president’s supporters to turn out.
Trump made clear want he wanted.
“I am looking forward to the debate on the evening of Thursday, October 15th in Miami. It will be great!” he tweeted Tuesday, after previously posting an erroneous comparison between the dangers posed by COVID-19 and the flu.