President Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on the macho image his fans adore after declaring himself cured of Covid-19 and scoffing at disastrous opinion polls only four weeks before election day against Democrat Joe Biden.
"FEELING GREAT!" he tweeted, also insisting that he is "looking forward" to holding a second scheduled debate against Biden in Miami on October 15.
There'd been speculation, even among some Republicans, that Trump might emerge from hospital chastened or at least with a new tone of empathy for the roughly 210,000 Americans who have died from the virus.
Instead the Republican has returned to the White House boasting he vanquished the disease that upended the country this year -- and, by extension, that he is still capable of vanquishing his grim odds on election day November 3.
"Maybe I'm immune," he mused on the grand South Portico balcony late Monday after demonstratively taking off the mask which he'd worn back from hospital.
He spent three nights at the Walter Reed military hospital for emergency treatment and is still being administered an aggressive cocktail of therapeutic drugs, as well being under constant monitoring in case of relapse. His doctor says he may not be "entirely out of the woods."
Yet the way Trump, 74, tells it, Covid-19 was simply no match for him.
"Don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it. You're going to beat it," he urged Americans in his homecoming speech.
Tuesday on Twitter he returned to one of his oldest lines of argument used to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic, saying it was comparable to the ordinary flu and "we have learned to live with it."
For a president whose brand centers on self-confidence, the entire hospital discharge is clearly stage managed to convince voters that he has the near superhuman strength to overcome not only Covid-19 but Biden's steadily solidifying lead in the polls.
The latest CNN poll published Tuesday gave Biden a national advantage of 57 percent to 41 percent among likely voters.
Fifty-two percent of those polled said they have a positive impression of Biden while only 39 percent said they have a positive view of Trump, a historically unpopular leader. Among women, the numbers were cataclysmic for the Republican: 32 percent support to Biden's 66 percent.
Biden, 77, was due to give a speech on the "battle for the soul of the nation" in Gettysburg, the Pennsylvania battlefield where the Civil War turned decisively in favor of Abraham Lincoln's north in 1863.
His running mate Kamala Harris, meanwhile, was set to debate Vice President Mike Pence in Utah on Wednesday, with a plexiglass barrier for coronavirus prevention between the two.
- Wrestling the virus -
The Trump team's response to that and a slew of other dismal polls is that they don't care.
In 2016, many wrote off Trump's chances against the impressively prepared Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Even much of the Republican party leadership had tried to stop Trump's nomination, fearing the worst.
Yet he won and not even the late emergence of an old recording in which he laughingly boasted about sexually assaulting random women could stop him.
"The same pollsters had the president down and out in 2016," campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. "He won the race then and is doing the same thing right now."
Trump may yet try another of the so-called pivots that he has periodically delivered during the coronavirus crisis, veering from dismissal of the disease to a graver, more typically presidential message.
After leaving Walter Reed, he said he had "learned so much" about the virus.
Most likely, though, is more of typical brand Trump -- the almost cartoonishly heroic figure that his hardcore fans love.
"He has lived through it and been in the hospital," said longtime right-wing Republican politician Newt Gingrich. "He's fearless. We are not the land of the timid and the home of the scaredy cats."
Or as another big Republican, Senator Amy Loeffler, tweeted: "COVID stood NO chance against @realDonaldTrump."
Along with that statement was WrestleMania video clip doctored to make it look like Trump was smashing the virus to the floor.
© 2020 AFP