(Yahoo Finance) – President Donald Trump’s stunning disclosure that he’s been infected with COVID-19 has upended an already tumultuous campaign, creating several paths that may alternatively lead to even deeper uncharted territory — or a potential wave of sympathy that boosts his flagging campaign.
On Friday, the White House physician said the president was in “good spirits” after his diagnosis, and was treated with an experimental cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) that hasn’t yet received regulatory approval. He’s also undergoing tests at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Yet analysts are already considering scenarios that include Trump continuing his campaign but curtailing public events — including his next debate with Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden — or possibly withdrawing from electoral contention altogether should his condition worsen. The former vice president tested negative on Friday.
“Even if Trump remains asymptomatic, he will have to be isolated for an undetermined period of time at a crucial moment for his campaign. Election Day is only 32 days away,” Eurasia Group’s Willis Sparks wrote in a research note on Friday.
“If the president becomes sick and must be replaced as a candidate, the responsibility for replacing him would fall to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee,” Sparks wrote in the research note for the risk analysis firm. That group would have similar weight as the votes at a Republican convention.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is composed of three members from each of the 50 U.S. states plus six members from U.S. territories. Under RNC rules, each state delegation would cast the same number of votes that it cast at the Republican convention.
However, Eurasia’s Sparks said that for Election Day, the “kicker” is that “millions of ballots have already been mailed to voters with the names Trump and Biden on them.”
With the president already casting aspersions on the integrity of the balloting process, “the risk of chaos in the 2020 U.S. presidential election just went way up,” his note warned.
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For weeks, Wall Street has been on edge over the increasingly contentious presidential election. Markets fell on Friday during a volatile session, but closed off their worst levels of the day. Investors are now wrestling with whether Trump’s dilemma is good, bad, or indifferent for a dramatic rally that’s carried stocks off March’s multiyear lows.
Another potential outcome, however unlikely it may seem, is that an embattled president garners a wave of sympathy from a weary public that polls suggest is prepared to oust him next month.
“As long as he recovers, this is good news for Trump’s election odds. It distracts from his first debate performance and gets him at least some sympathy regarding the pandemic,” said Matt Gertken, Geopolitical Strategist at BCA Research, on Friday.
“This also puts the spotlight on Joe Biden’s campaign during the quarantine period. Trump would emerge with a new lease on life in mid-October,” Gertken added.
Indeed, several market watchers drew comparisons between Trump, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The leaders of Britain and Brazil both recovered from COVID-19, and are now more popular than before they contracted the disease.
Greg Valliere, AGF Investments Chief U.S. Policy Strategist, said that the president was likely trying to steer the conversation away from COVID-19 in the waning weeks of the campaign — primarily via picking a new Supreme Court Justice after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — before he contracted the virus.
“Now, I think between today and November 3, we’re gonna talk a lot about COVID,” Valliere added. When former President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, he handled it “quite well with some humor…and he got a wave of sympathy and good will from the public,” Valliere said. “This could occur also for Trump.”
Given that he’s getting the best medical care available, it’s conceivable that “odds would favor him beating this” even given his advanced age of 74 and other underlying negative factors, according to Valliere.
“If he does beat it with some good humor, it could actually ironically be a plus,” Valliere said.
According to top JPMorgan strategist Marko Kolanovic, a confluence of voter sympathy, turnout at the polls or a possibly “mild” COVID-19 case could help bolster Trump’s flagging electoral fortunes.
Under a less benign scenario, the possibility that Trump experiences a “significant health deterioration” may lower the animosity between Democrats and Republicans.
That would pave the way for “national reconciliation and likely increasing Republicans’ odds in Congress,” Kolanovic added. It also suggests the GOP may even retain control of the Senate, which a growing number of analysts think could be lost in a Democratic wave.
Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance.