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Chris Christie and Senator Ron Johnson diagnosed with COVID-19 as GOP victim list grows

Chris Christie and Senator Ron Johnson diagnosed with COVID-19 as GOP victim list grows

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The Trump administration’s reckless and incompetent handling of coronavirus safety protocols both at the White House and on the campaign trail claimed additional victims today as Donald Trump lays in his hospital bed at Walter Reed Medical Center this morning.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced this morning via Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Christie was among the numerous Republican political figures who have spent time with the president in person during the past week, having worked with Trump on the preparation for his shambolic presidential debate with former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday and attended the White House event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden last weekend.

Whether the president himself or his advisor Hope Hicks was the source of the viral infection remains unknown, however, given the number of people who have come into contact with senior Republican officials in the past week, it seems as if the White House and the Trump campaign have reached superspreader status.

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In addition to Chris Christie — whose considerable girth puts him at particular risk for serious co-morbidities that could result in a deadly outcome — the coronavirus also wormed its way into the body of Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, putting the president’s entire campaign in a precarious position with just one month left before election day.

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Stepien is reportedly experiencing mild flu-like symptoms and plans to continue working on the campaign remotely from quarantine for now.

Sign the petition to tell Mitch McConnell: No vote on a new Supreme Court Justice until after inauguration!

Yet another senior Republican politician who announced a positive diagnosis today was Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) who joins Senators Mike Lee (R-UT)  and Thom Tillis (R-NC) on the list of those GOP senators who have contracted COVID-19.

Johnson’s diagnosis likely has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) very nervous over the potential disruption of his plans to ram through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat opened by the lamentable passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

With two female Republican Senators — Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — already having gone on record as opposing any vote on a Supreme Court nominee not made by the winner of the November election, and three Senators in quarantine, McConnell is realizing that he may not have enough votes to confirm Barrett before election day since Senate rules require that senators be present in the chamber for any votes.

McConnell also faces the prospect of additional GOP senators falling ill with COVID-19 because of the general partisan antipathy towards face masks that the members of his party have displayed and because of Senate Republicans’ practice of meeting three times a week for lunch where they co-mingle with each other without masks as they dine.

These latest coronavirus cases in the Republican ranks on the eve of the election, coming after yesterday’s reports that former White House advisor Kellyanne Conway and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Rona McDaniel have also both contracted the virus, raises serious questions about the ability of the Trump campaign to move from its lagging positions in the polls so close to election day.

With Trump himself still at Walter Reed and reportedly continuing to exhibit symptoms serious enough for him to have been taken there to begin with, the election that was largely seen as a referendum on the president’s handling of the pandemic may ultimately be decided on COVID-19’s own terms.

It would be an ironically fitting Hollywood ending for the inevitable Donald Trump bio movie.

Let’s hope that there is no sequel.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter. 

Original reporting by Maggie Haberman at The New York Times, by Manu Raju and Lauren Fox at CNN, and by Alex Isenstadt at Politico.

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