Opinion: The Coronavirus will impact the 2020 Presidential election

By the end of February, one subject dominated national headlines: the 2020 Democratic primary election. Now, the election seems like a distant memory in the wake of a national health crisis, COVID-19, that has shut down several states and prompted aggressive responses from mayors, governors and President Trump.

While 2020 will forever be remembered as the year of COVID-19, an election is happening that cannot be changed without alterations to the Constitution.

A crisis of this magnitude will certainly impact the rest of this election season, changing the logistics of conducting elections, the way candidates campaign, and ultimately, will shift the paradigm of American voters.

As of March 29, 13 primaries across the country have been postponed to later dates due to COVID-19. One state, Washington, conducted its  primary on schedule, but closed all physical balloting locations. Residents could only vote by mail.

While the November general election seems like a long way away, COVID-19 will certainly continue to delay primary elections. While Trump said recently that he hopes to reopen the country by Easter, April 12, experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have openly disagreed with Trump’s claim.

“I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now, it’s going to be over,” Fauci said. “I don’t think there’s a chance of that.”

Not only has COVID-19 changed the timeline of elections, but it has forced candidates to significantly alter the way they campaign. Due to national recommendations and state restrictions, large groups of more than 100, or in some states more than 10, are banned, preventing the three major presidential candidates left in the field from conducting the large rallies usually associated with election season.

All three candidates — Trump, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders — are well over 70 years old, making them more at risk of dying if they contract COVID-19. Trump has remained in his home at the White House, appearing for bill signings and daily press conferences, and Sanders and Biden have also remained at their homes, using television ads and filmed speeches as their primary campaign strategies.

Interacting with large crowds, answering questions and shaking hands with people is no longer an option for those seeking the highest office in the land. Not even the experts know exactly how long it will take to contain the virus and when large gatherings will be permitted, but for the foreseeable future, campaigning will be done entirely through technology.

But most importantly to the results of November’s general election, COVID-19 has reoriented the issues for voters and caused the 2020 election to come to a referendum on how Trump has handled the crisis.

Economically, COVID-19 has essentially erased all of the progress Trump made in his three-plus years in office. Trump has measured much of his economic success on the stock market, which has tanked since the first confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. 

The Dow Jones Industrial average has already gone down 24.18% in 2020, only three full months into the year. The lowest point it hit was 18,591.93, the lowest point since 2016.

Despite the economic downfall, the country is primarily pleased with the way Trump has handled the nation’s response to the virus. A Gallup poll from March 26 found that 60% of American adults approve of his handling of the pandemic. His approval rating now sits at 47%, the highest number he has achieved in his entire presidency to date.

In recent polling, Trump has rapidly closed the distance between himself and Biden in head-to-head polling, now only trailing by two points, 49% to 47%, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post survey. 

As Trump continues to receive media attention for the way he and his administration are responding to COVID-19, Biden has not been on the campaign trail and, when he does make statements, they have primarily been backpage news compared to the pandemic coverage.

Fortunately for Biden, the Democratic primary is all but secured for him, with FiveThirtyEight now giving him a 99% chance of obtaining the required majority of delegates for the Democratic primary. Biden can shift his attention directly onto Trump, highlighting what he believes Trump has handled improperly concerning the virus, and telling the American people what he would do differently, which is what he has done so far in his televised conferences from his home.

But as Trump continues to bring out experts and doctors on a daily basis to talk about COVID-19 and continues to implement dramatic safety measures across the country, Biden will face a tough task in overcoming the 60% of adults who believe Trump is managing the most threatening crisis to our nation the right way.

Wylie is the assistant sports editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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