It’s difficult for strongman politicians to project confidence in the face of the virus when they themselves succumb to it
What happens to the appeal of the strongman politician when he ends up in hospital? If his offer is that he is somehow above the certainties of science, and that he can overcome regular human weakness by power of mind, how does that weather contact with reality?
This is contested: the US pollster John Zogby found a distinct bounce for President Trump since his Covid diagnosis on Friday, with the numbers between him and Joe Biden narrowing to 47:49. “[Trump’s] performance,” Zogby notes, “is actually one point higher than his vote percentage in 2016.” Trump seems to have energised his base, in this reading, boosted especially among over-65s and evangelical Christians. A Yahoo/YouGov poll, however, recorded different results, Biden on 48% and Trump on 40%, as the all-important “independent” voters blamed the president for his own infection – his failure to socially distance or wear a mask.