Quick Take: Trump has COVID
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here. And it's completely insane. I think we can say that now. The news cycle is well beyond anything that we've ever experienced in our lives. I mean, let's face it just in the last week we had a massive New York Times data dump showing that President Trump had paid no taxes for 10 years and $750 in 2016 and 2017, which is a weird number, $750. Where do you come up with $750. Kind of just kind of arbitrary, right? It's like, it's less than a puppy, but more than if you were buying it rescue, I don't know. We'll dig into that. And then of course the worst debate, presidential debate of our life times without any question, some 71 times that President Trump actually interrupted the moderator, another 30 by Biden, all in all over one interruption per minute, it was useless. There was no information.
My view is we shouldn't bother to have any more presidential debates in this cycle. And you know what? I might get that wish because today we can throw out all of that other news, who's paying attention to it. President Trump and the First Lady, Melania Trump have tested positive for coronavirus. My God, who wanted to wake up to that, some people were still awake apparently, 1:00 AM this morning, finding that out on the East coast, you folks on the West coast, I just feel bad. And the rest of the world, I'm sorry that we continue to be airing our dirty linens all over the place, but this is a mess. And it's a mess because of course the election is coming up in just over a month. And that means we're going to have this coronavirus story around the President and everyone in his inner circle getting tested and all the rest.
That's just going to dominate the news for the coming weeks. What's the implications of that? Well, first of all, beyond the election, I think it is important to recognize that the three leaders of the G20 who have taken coronavirus the least seriously, who have been least willing to lead with science and expertise, are now the three leaders of the G20 that have also come down with coronavirus themselves. I am talking about British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. I'm talking about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. And of course I'm talking about my own President, Donald Trump. That tells you something. It tells you that coronavirus is a very serious disease and it should be taken as such. Jair Bolsonaro had only mild symptoms, came back pretty quickly. His popularity did not really take much of a dump at all. Especially as coronavirus numbers are now going down in Brazil.
In the United Kingdom, Johnson, Prime Minister Johnson could have died. He was in the ICU, it was much more serious. There was a rally around him and greater support as people were concerned about his own health and safety. Since then, the UK has done worse in terms of coronavirus, some of the worst response in all of Europe still, and his approval ratings have gone down. In the United States, I suspect it'll be in between. In between, in part because President Trump's approval ratings are low, but incredibly sticky. He's got his base. They don't oppose him for any reason. And I don't think they're going to now. Also, I mean, I certainly don't believe, I certainly hope that Trump is going to recover and recover quickly. Keep in mind, he's 74 years old. He is obese. That is a preexisting condition, but otherwise doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, has the best healthcare in the world. The percentages will tell you, he's unlikely to need to be hospitalized.
He's very unlikely to need to go to the ICU, but it's a real possibility. And it's something we have to take very seriously indeed. Perhaps more importantly for the country, we are now going to be talking about coronavirus as the top issue for the next four weeks. That's a big deal because President Trump hasn't wanted to talk about coronavirus. He doesn't do as well talking about it. He's not seen to have handled it very well. He was well behind Biden in coronavirus. He's considerably better than Biden in who handles the US economy better. So if he's able to focus on the economy and to a degree on law and order issues, that benefits Trump. If we're talking about coronavirus and particularly we're talking about his coronavirus and Melania's coronavirus. And people around him who have coronavirus, well, that's obviously going to do worse for him.
So I had believed that Trump's approval, likelihood of winning the presidency was about a 35%, Biden, 65%. And I thought it would get closer as we got closer to the election because the economy was picking up and because coronavirus numbers going down. I don't believe that's going to get closer now because of this massive piece of news in Trump and the First Lady having coronavirus. Even if he gets better quickly and only has mild symptoms, we're still talking about a President that is going to be in isolation for 10 days to 14 days minimum. Someone who will not be able to go on the campaign trail the way he was, and it could be worse than that. So you'd certainly be handicapping the race more strongly in Biden's favor. At this point, maybe 70%, maybe a little bit better.
Having said that, Trump's willingness to contest the outcome continues to be a hundred percent. That means the Trump army watching the polls. It means trying to throw out ballots. It means only one polling place per County for drop-off ballots in Texas, which is astonishing and makes it harder for people to physically vote. I mean, just lots of efforts to ensure that the balloting process is in favor of Trump and the Republicans, and can be contested in favor of Trump and the Republicans. Given that, Biden is going to be contesting as well, if it turns out they're behind. I still think that it may well be that the election itself is more of a landslide. It's possible. I'm not sure I would say it's likely, but I still think after election day, the most likely outcome is it's contested. It goes legal. And this is a really ugly process for quite some time, weeks, maybe months.
So, we're heading into the thick of it. At the very least, I can say at least the next presidential debate, probably not going to happen. And given the fact that we learned absolutely nothing and on balance, it just damaged the country, I guess I'm fine with that. But it's going to be a lot of coronavirus all the time. Final thing I would say is it is by far the biggest story of the year, not the US economy, certainly not issues of social instability in individual cities. It's not Antifa. It's not the proud boys. It's not any of that. It is the worst crisis of our lifetimes, a pandemic and the economic impact of that pandemic, the health impact of the pandemic. That's what we should be talking about globally. It's what we should be talking about in the United States, in the US election. And that's what we will be talking about. And that regard, it's something that we should be grateful for. That's it for me. I'll talk to you all very soon.