US Election 2020: Betting suspended on presidential election as Trump tests positive

After news broke that Donald Trump and his wife Melania tested positive for Covid-19, there is one ominous sign that points to the difficult reality facing the US president.

With just 32 days left until the presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden had moved well ahead as favourite among bookkeepers to win the White House, hovering around $1.60 while the president moved out as far as $2.50.

But after the 74-year-old president announced he will be battling Covid-19, all bets are off.

US President Donald Trump says he tested positive for coronavirus. Source: Getty
US President Donald Trump says he tested positive for coronavirus. Source: Getty

Betting agencies across the globe, including in Australia, moved quickly to suspend presidential betting markets.

“Bookmakers have stopped betting on the presidential election. Must be worried about a late scratching,” one observer noted.

TAB was among those to suspend betting Friday. At the time, Mr Biden was at $1.57.

“That’s the lowest he’s been, he firmed quite a bit after the debate,” TAB spokesperson Shaun Anderson told Yahoo News Australia. Mr Trump, meanwhile, had moved out to $2.50.

But before markets could be suspended, the big mover was current Vice President Mike Pence.

After the president announced he tested positive for the virus, Mr Pence, who started the day at odds of 300 to 1 closed dramatically to end the day with odds of 26 to 1 to become the next US president.

“Pence was obviously the one who moved today. It’s a big jump from 300 to 26,” Mr Anderson said.

“There’s just so many variables, that’s the reason why the market is closed. There is so much uncertainty.”

It remains to be seen if Mr Trump experiences symptoms during his fight with the virus. But given his risk profile, there is a chance he could face some of the more challenging symptoms brought on by the disease.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most people develop only mild symptoms, but some people - usually those with other medical complications - develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. Mr Trump’s age and weight put him in the high risk category.

When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted the virus in April, he was forced onto a ventilator in intensive care and later revealed that doctors had prepared to announce his death. The then 55-year-old was ultimately lucky to make a full recovery.

World reacts to Trump’s virus tweet

Reaction poured in on social media following the announcement with some making jokes after the US president recently told a rally crowd that the virus “affects virtually no one”.

Others were quick to point out the lack of social distancing at his rallies and how he mocked his opponent Joe Biden for always wearing a mask during the first debate on Wednesday.

Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein said the diagnosis meant America was “now in the midst of a national security crisis that is different than any one in our history.”

Dr Emma Shortis, a research fellow at RMIT, said it would be fairly uncharted territory if the president became incapacitated due to the virus.

“What happens now is very unpredictable. The 25th Amendment, which is designed to deal with a sick or incapacitated President, hasn’t ever really been tested,” she wrote on Friday.

Meanwhile US political operative Rick Wilson, who is running an aggressively anti-Trump campaign known as the Lincoln Project, urged supporters to stay in the fight against the president, saying “no one knows a damn thing about how this will change the election”.

Others have suggested it could delay the senate hearing process for installing a new conservative justice to the Supreme Court. Mr Trump and the Republicans were expecting to rush through the confirmation before the election. It’s unlikely this will have an impact, however, unless a broader outbreak takes place on Capitol Hill.

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