Scandals and sickness: How they could impact political races


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The 2020 election is less than a month away, and the surprises don’t seem to end.

From, what some call a disastrous debate, to President Donald Trump testing positive for COVID-19, to surprises on both sides of the North Carolina Senate race, a lot has unfolded in just the last few days.

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“A week in politics is like a year in regular life,” CFCC Political Science Instructor Nelson Beaulieu said.

Just in the last week, there seemed to have been one development after another. The first presidential debate was just six days ago, but now the next two debates hang in the balance, as Trump battles COVID-19.

“We had, what almost every political pundit would agree, is the absolute worst debate, and here we are talking and we haven’t mentioned that,” Beaulieu said.

Just days after the debate, Trump announced he tested positive for COVID. The announcement came overnight Thursday into Friday. Since then, it seems every few hours there is confirmation of another positive case within the Trump Administration and other politicians.

However, can we just chalk all of this up to being the “October Surprise”?

“The ‘October Surprise’ is something observers of politics have thought about for a long time,” UNCW Political Science Professor Aaron King said. “Just some event that comes out of the blue that surprises a lot of people and can perhaps change the election. Whether it’s the Comey letter from the previous election. Certainly, I think this year, there have been several ‘October Surprise’.”

With less than a month until the election, King weighs in on Trump’s strategy, and how his COVID diagnosis could impact his campaign.

“I think the President’s strategy has been to downplay the coronavirus, and just sort of give the idea that he has things under control,” King said. “In terms of a narrative, it’s a pretty terrible narrative for the President right now.”

The turmoil has also hit North Carolina, with Senator Thom Tillis testing positive shortly after Trump Friday.

Less than 24 hours after Tillis’ announcement, his Senate opponent Cal Cunningham found himself in the middle of a sex scandal. On Saturday, Cunningham admitted to sexting a woman who isn’t his wife.

“This is a little unprecedented because you have sort of a surprise on both sides,” King said. “It’s a wonder on how these things come into play on anyone’s mind going into the ballot box, and how they say in their mind, ‘Well, what’s worse? A Senate candidate who was already a little bit vulnerable? Maybe not taking as many precautions as he could? Or some personal infidelity on the part of another candidate?”

Experts say this is likely not the end of surprises, and a lot can still happen in the next few weeks leading up to November 3.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to have another have another October Surprise, a November Surprise,” Beaulieu said.

Experts also add, millions of people have already cast their vote though through early voting or mail-in voting.

Their advice to voters in the coming weeks is to be patient, because the results of this election will likely take time. They remind people there likely won’t be final results the night of, or the morning after the election.