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Republican COVID-19 outbreak rocks the 2020 race

Republican COVID-19 outbreak rocks the 2020 race
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Everyone expected an October surprise, but few Republicans believed that surprise would be President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE testing positive for COVID-19, the disease that he described as a “Democratic hoax” in February.   

Over the last few days, we’ve learned that Trump, along with several other high profile Republicans have contracted the virus. This, with just a month left until Election Day. 

The president’s and his party’s handling of the devastating pandemic has been stupid, stubborn and irresponsible. Now Republicans themselves are paying the price for their feeble fight against the deadly disease. 

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The second wave of the pandemic could crest in a blue tidal wave that will sweep Trump out of the White House and Republicans out of the Senate. Things were already bad politically for the president before his diagnosis and then they got worse quickly.

The president’s performance at the first presidential debate tanked. Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE was cool, calm and collected in the face of a frenzied assault. New polls measured the damage to the president’s campaign.

A national survey from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News conducted after the debate gave the Democratic nominee a 14-point lead over the incumbent. Battleground state surveys by the New York Times and Siena College after the debate indicate that the former vice president leads the president in Pennsylvania and Florida. Biden victories in both states would give him an Electoral College majority if he holds all the states that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE won in 2016.

Since the president’s affliction became public, things have taken for the worse for Republicans in more ways than one.

The refusal to take precautionary health measures seems to have turned the White House and the Trump campaign into COVID-19 convection ovens. Now with only a month to go before Election Day, several key members of the president’s reelection team have tested positive for COVID-19, including his campaign manager, Bill StepienBill StepienTrump campaign, RNC announce 0 million post-election fundraising haul Parscale says Trump should have been more empathetic on coronavirus Former Trump campaign chief Parscale reportedly planning to write a book MORE, presidential aides Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration President says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Donald Trump Jr. tests positive for COVID-19 MORE and Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE, debate advisor Chris ChristieChris ChristieTrump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Biden moves forward as GOP breaks with Trump rise MORE and Rhona McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee. 

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The outbreak could blow up the GOP plan to rush the confirmation of the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, through the Senate before the election. Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWatch live: Senate panel holds Russia investigation hearing Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus MORE (R-Wis.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge MORE (R-Utah) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRep. Mark Walker announces Senate bid in North Carolina Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge MORE (R-N.C.) have also tested positive for COVID-19. Many of the new GOP infections could be a product of a White House ceremony on Sept. 26 to announce Barrett as the nominee. Tillis and Lee are members of the Judiciary Committee that will consider the nomination. Tillis is in a tough reelection battle. 

The president's illness certainly raises the stakes in Wednesday's vice presidential debate. The confrontation between Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden says family will avoid business conflicts Biden says China must play by 'international norms' MORE (D-Calif.) and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSenate confirms Christopher Waller to Fed board Trump pardon scandal would doom his 2024 campaign Trump to award highest civilian honor to Lou Holtz on Thursday MORE might have been a mere blip on the busy radar screen full of bogeys if the president was healthy. Now there is added pressure on Pence to perform well since viewers might see him taking a more active role in policy while Trump is ill. Harris, Biden’s running mate, will press Pence on the administration's failed fight against the pandemic, so he better be prepared for her ferocious onslaught.

The rising number of COVID-19 cases in many states and the postponement of two NFL games last week indicates that the specter of pandemic has again reared its ugly head. The president's positive test has also reignited the controversy over his failure to act quickly to suppress the devastating pandemic. The pandemic is back in the spotlight and a recent CNN survey indicates that Biden has a big advantage over the president on handling the pandemic.  

Normally a presidential illness might create sympathy for the incumbent. But Trump’s callous disregard for the suffering of the millions of Americans afflicted by the pandemic and the subsequent economic devastation has drained the pool of goodwill available to him. More than 7 million people have been afflicted with the disease, more than 200,00 have died and millions have lost their jobs.

The president will recover with the benefit of the best health care that the United States government can provide. But many ordinary people have little or no health care to get them through the crisis. To make things worse, Republican state attorney generals have asked the Supreme Court to nullify the Affordable Care Act that provides health insurance to millions of Americans.

The spread of the disease is bad news for the nation, the president and millions of Americans. If there is any good to come out of this, the president’s illness may remind Americans, especially Republicans dismissive of the threat, that COVID-19 is still a crisis and hopefully it will discourage people from going into public places without masks. House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (D-Calif.) hopes the president’s diagnosis leads to a saner administration approach to the pandemic.

A president should set an example for his fellow citizens and Trump could perform a valuable public service in the waning days of his presidency by warning Americans to take proper precautions for their own safety and the safety of friends, family and strangers they come into contact with.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon