Biden up 14 points in national poll as Trump struggles on multiple fronts

Post-debate survey sees 8 point swing away from US president, now also battling COVID, sidelined from campaigning, short on cash, and unable to deflect conversation away from virus

This combination of file pictures created on September 28, 2020 shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden(L) speaking in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 2020 and US President Donald Trump speaking during an event for black supporters at the Cobb Galleria Centre September 25, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. (JIM WATSON and Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
This combination of file pictures created on September 28, 2020 shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden(L) speaking in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 2020 and US President Donald Trump speaking during an event for black supporters at the Cobb Galleria Centre September 25, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. (JIM WATSON and Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads US President Donald Trump by 14 points after last week’s first debate, according to a national poll published Sunday.

Biden is ahead of Trump by 14 points among registered US voters, leading 53 percent to 39%, up from an eight-point lead before the debate, according to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. 

The poll was taken after the debate, but before Trump was found to be positive with COVID-19 and hospitalized on Friday.

According to the poll, the biggest decline for Trump, who was seen to be belligerent and unruly in the debate, was with seniors and women. Seniors now back Biden by 62% to 35% and suburban women favor him by 58% to 33%.

Asked who had a better temperament to be president, 58% said Biden, compared to 26% picking Trump.

However, Trump was still viewed as better to handle the economy, although the margin there also shrunk, from 48% to 38% before the debate to 48% to 41% after.

The poll, conducted among 800 registered voters, has a margin of error of 3.5%.

The poll numbers add to an already difficult week for the Trump campaign that saw his long-hidden tax returns leaked out and his first debate performance ignite a firestorm over white supremacy. To cap it off, he was hospitalized with COVID-19 after months of playing down the threat of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

In this September 29, 2020, file photo, US President Donald Trump holds out his face mask during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP/Julio Cortez, File)

Trump’s reelection team, battered on all sides, now enters the final month of the campaign grappling with deficits in the polls, a shortage of cash and a candidate who is at least temporarily sidelined.

The crises, many of Trump’s own making, have come so quickly that they are hard to keep straight.

Recordings revealed that he acknowledged minimizing the dangers of the coronavirus earlier this year. A blockbuster story raised questions over whether he privately belittled members of the military. And even the first lady was captured on tape expressing disdain for having to decorate the White House for Christmas.

“Are the political gods simply saying, ‘Your run is over’? That four years of chaos has caught up to you?” asked Michael Steele, former head of the Republican Party. He predicts the president’s coronavirus diagnosis will overwhelm all the other massive storylines.

“We are a caring, forgiving people,” Steele said of the American public. “But while they may show him empathy, they also won’t forget that he didn’t do all the things he needed to protect himself and the American people.”

The president’s team is launching what it calls “Operation MAGA” to propel his campaign forward, even as he was being treated Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Although Trump’s medical team raised the possibility that he could be released as early as Monday, significant questions remained about the president’s health and schedule.

Dr. Sean Conley, physician to US President Donald Trump, is followed by a team of doctors for a briefing with reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, October 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The challenges facing the reelection team are enormous.

Both heads of Trump’s political apparatus — campaign manager Bill Stepien and Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel — tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Also infected: several outside advisers who had been involved in the president’s debate preparations last week, including former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

And that comes just days after Brad Parscale, who was demoted from his campaign manager post over the summer but remained in a senior role, was hospitalized. Police were called to his Florida home after his wife said he had a firearm and was acting suicidal.

Deputy campaign manager Justin Clark is temporarily overseeing the campaign’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Stepien organized a late Saturday staff call to project an optimistic tone, even as he acknowledged the loss of the campaign’s “best asset,” the president.

“We built a team that’s stronger than any one of us singularly,” he said.

With early voting already underway in many states, Trump has consistently trailed Biden in national polling even as the margins in most battleground states have been closer.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, third from left, waits with others as US President Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he tested positive for COVID-19, October 2, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“This race is going to be super close. This is officially October. It’s officially game time,” Stepien said. “These are crazy times. These weeks feel like months with the amount of action and news packed into each week.”

Vice President Mike Pence outlined plans to launch a new effort to ramp up campaign appearances by Trump lieutenants who haven’t been infected. Pence himself will star in the new effort, in addition to Trump’s children. Pence promised that he and the first family would begin fanning out across the country aggressively in person after Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

“We’ve got a campaign to run,” Pence said. “I promise you, this president, as soon as his doctors say so, he’s going to be back out there.”

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