Oct 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The GOP's great depression

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's the storyline of a Republican nightmare: A mask-disdaining President Trump gets the coronavirus on the eve of the election, against a political backdrop that looks dire for Republicans.

Driving the news: Some top GOP operatives, privy to data from swing states, tell me that this week's chaotic presidential debate had a calamitous effect on Republican chances in tight Senate races.

  • "The bottom is falling out everywhere," said a longtime Republican insider.

This insider said the debate didn't faze hardcore Trumpers. But he said it turned off "open to Trump" swing voters, especially women in suburbs.

  • "Everyone knew Trump was capable of this kind of behavior," the insider said. "But these voters had never had 90 straight minutes of that behavior thrust in their faces."

An outside presidential adviser cautioned that Senate races "really turn on different voter impulses" than the presidential race.

  • This adviser thinks Sen. Thom Tillis will win in North Carolina.

Biden — mocked by Trump for masking up — campaigned in Michigan.

  • As word spread that Trump would fly to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where the president remained overnight, the Biden campaign said it was taking down its attack ads.
  • Biden said he will "continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family."

The virus has swept through the top of the Republican Party, with 31 days until Election Day:

  • The President.
  • The First Lady.
  • RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
  • Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, experiencing "mild flu-like symptoms."
  • Hope Hicks.
  • Kellyanne Conway, former counselor.
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

Conway and two of the senators (Lee and Tillis) — along with Notre Dame President John Jenkins, who announced a positive test — attended last Saturday's Rose Garden event with Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

  • Few wore masks:
Rose Garden
Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
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