Politics

Trump's coronavirus diagnosis unlikely to prompt 'sympathy vote' ahead of election, political analyst says

Key Points
  • Trump, 74, and first lady Melania Trump, 50, have both tested positive for Covid-19 and are now self-isolating.
  • It comes just 32 days ahead of the presidential election, prompting world stocks to slide as market participants await further clarity on a variety of different scenarios.
  • "I don't think really that anything is going to have a big impact in terms of changing the polling numbers in favor of Trump or Biden at this point," Cailin Birch of The Economist Intelligence Unit told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Friday.
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LONDON — President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis is unlikely to move the needle ahead of next month's presidential election, a political analyst told CNBC on Friday.

Trump, 74, and first lady Melania Trump, 50, have both tested positive for Covid-19 and are now self-isolating. It comes just 32 days ahead of the presidential election, prompting world stocks to slide as market participants await further clarity on a variety of different scenarios.

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a letter that the president and first lady were "both well at this time," before adding that he would provide updates on any future developments.

"I don't think really that anything is going to have a big impact in terms of changing the polling numbers in favor of Trump or Biden at this point," Cailin Birch of The Economist Intelligence Unit told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Friday.

"There is definitely a possibility that we could have a little bit of a sympathy vote coming through for Trump," Birch said. "But … I'm not sure, given his approach to the virus … plus the fact that the U.S. political spectrum is just so deeply polarized and entrenched, that it will have any real sort of impact."

Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been sharply criticized, although the president has touted his own management of the health crisis. At a campaign rally in Ohio late last month, Trump claimed the disease "affects virtually nobody."

In testing positive for coronavirus, Trump has followed in the footsteps of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, 65.

To date, more than 34 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with more than 1 million related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump vs. Biden

"Just to look back at (Trump's) approval ratings from the entirety of his first term, to go through personal scandal, impeachment, robust economic growth and then a severe economic crisis — with differing opinions on how he has handled it — his public opinion rating has stayed almost fixed at between 40% to 43% of survey respondents," The EIU's Birch said.

"He is uniquely immune to changes in the political-economic spectrum and I'm not sure this is going to be anything different, to be honest."

People wait in line to cast their ballots in-person for the November 3rd elections at the early voting Chicago Board of Elections' Loop Super Site in Chicago, Illinois, on October 1, 2020.
KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI | AFP via Getty Images

Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday went head-to-head in the first televised debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The contest, which featured incessant interruptions and personal attacks from both candidates, prompted dismal reviews from survey respondents, and even the moderator himself.

However, three polls asking who won the debate found Biden had come out on top, with the NBC News national polling average, the RealClearPolitics general election average, and FiveThirtyEight's national polling tracker all currently putting Biden at least seven points ahead of Trump.

Research from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge published last year found that televised election debates typically don't have any effect on voters.