Trump looks to rescue election with rallies

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 5, 2020 US President Donald Trump salutes as he arrives at the White House upon his return from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19, in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP)
  • Agence France Presse
  • October 9, 2020 2:52 PM

Washington, United States |President Donald Trump takes to the airwaves Friday while pushing for live rallies this weekend, despite questions over his recovery from Covid-19, in a frenetic attempt to catch up with challenger Joe Biden.

With just 25 days before the November 3 election, Trump is frustrated, constrained by a coronavirus outbreak in the White House, and losing badly to Biden in the polls.

Friday, he was due to host what was billed as "the largest radio rally in history" on The Rush Limbaugh Show -- a popular right-wing chat show.

And late Thursday, in one of two lengthy interviews he gave to friendly right-wing hosts on the Fox television network, he announced tentative plans for a rally in Florida on Saturday and another in Pennsylvania the next day.

He was due back on Fox later Friday for an interview with another loyal host, Tucker Carlson, in what will be his first on-camera media appearance since testing positive for coronavirus last week.

"He is ready to go. He wants to talk to the American people, and he wants to be out there," Trump's press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News.

Trump spent three nights in hospital with coronavirus last week and the rest of this week under treatment, but his doctor issued a statement Thursday that the president will be fit for a "safe return to public engagement" from Saturday.

There is widespread skepticism about Trump's true state of health given doctors' refusal to give key data, including precise explanation of when he was infected and when he last had a negative coronavirus test.

Some of what is known, such as his treatment with the steroid dexamethasone, suggests that his case may have been at least initially severe, raising the question of whether he would need to spend longer in quarantine.

Adding to pressure on Trump, congressional Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, were to unveil a bill Friday on creation of a commission to investigate Trump's fitness for the job -- or whether he should be removed under the constitution's 25th Amendment.

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said it was time to examine Trump's "disassociation from reality."

- Biden surging -

Biden is surging in polls, with political strategists starting to speculate openly about a possible landslide victory. Biden leads heavily in key demographics including women and the elderly.

And Trump's biggest liability -- overwhelming public dissatisfaction over his handling of the coronavirus crisis -- has returned as the headline issue of the campaign thanks to the president's own infection.

With the clock running down, it had long been expected that Trump would attempt to use the three presidential debates to try to inflict a late, mortal wound to Biden's challenge. But that too is turning the wrong way for the Republican.

Polls show that his angry, often near-shouting performance at the first debate in Cleveland lost him yet more support.

And the second debate, which had been scheduled for next week, looks unlikely to take place after Trump rejected the decision by organizers to move to a virtual format, citing the risk of coronavirus.

That would leave only a final opportunity to debate Biden on television on October 22.

Biden, whose growing momentum is reflected in waves of cash donations and heavy ad spending, was traveling to Nevada a day after campaigning in Arizona.

© Agence France-Presse

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