By Vince Cable
Is Trump immortal? The question is transparently stupid and the answer is obvious. But the president has had an extraordinary comeback from Covid. As an obese man in his seventies, he has beaten the odds, recovering without any of the lagged, second phase of the disease others have suffered. He is bounding around with great energy, unlike our own prime minister, who is still seemingly weighed down by its after-effects.
If I were one of the millions of true believers – whose continued devotion to Trump seems beyond reason and experience – I would start to wonder if he has some supernatural powers. His resilience cannot all be put down to large doses of remdesivir, vitamin D and bleach.
The president will, of course, eventually succumb to the fate awaiting us all, and graduate to the afterlife. But we should prepare for him to be around for some time yet. Next week, he may yet win the election; he may lose narrowly but win on appeal to the courts; he may lose decisively but cling to office anyway. If he is finally extracted from the White House, he will in all likelihood continue to lead an influential movement in his name.
Politicians create political creeds that live on long after they leave office. Witness Thatcher in Blair and Blair in Cameron. At a greater extreme, witness Juan Peron in Argentina, now on its sixth Peronist president ploughing the same disastrous furrow as his political ancestor.
I am on record as arguing in this column that Trump is likely to win (9 June 2020). In the light of current polling and the feedback from early voting, that opinion could charitably be described as contrarian. The factors working for him – a recovering economy and booming stock market, the absence of wars, the white backlash against anti-racist protests, success in packing the courts with supporters and religious fundamentalists, picking a fight with China – seem, at the moment, to be swamped by fear of Covid and anger over his handling of it.
Moreover, the Democrats have been disciplined and unified. Biden has largely avoided gaffes and, on Covid, been relentlessly on message. Time is also running out for the expected “October surprise”: a sudden, alarming, crisis overseas, real or contrived, in the Middle East or east Asia, or some spectacular piece of good, if fake, news on a Covid vaccine.