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STORY BY ALEX ISENSTADT

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Published on October 2, 2020 6:33 PM

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Shell-shocked Trump campaign seeks a way forward
President Donald Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis has thrust his already reeling reelection campaign into further disarray and forced his top advisers to rip up their plans for the final month of the race.

Trump campaign aides say they're rethinking everything from rallies to fundraisers, adjustments that will take the president off the trail and potentially complicate his efforts to erase former Vice President Joe Biden's polling lead.

The changes are hitting the campaign immediately. The president's team canceled a Friday rally in must-win Florida and postponed a pair of events slated for Saturday in Wisconsin. They have also postponed next week's planned West Coast swing in Nevada and Arizona. The president was also to appear at a high-dollar donor event in Los Angeles.

Trump's positive test rippled across his political apparatus. With fears of infection rising, the reelection effort is preparing for a deep clean of its Arlington, Va., headquarters this weekend. Campaign manager Bill Stepien, meanwhile, sent a memo to staff saying that anyone "who has had exposure to someone testing positive should immediately begin self-quarantine."

Perhaps most profoundly, the Trump team is being forced to reconsider its strategy for the final stretch of the campaign. After spending months trying to divert attention from the president's management of the pandemic, the coronavirus is now certain to dominate the rest of the race.

"The debate over the last few weeks shifted to the [Supreme] Court and the economy, and that shift was helpful to Trump in drawing attention away from Covid. Coronavirus will now be front and center for weeks, which is not what he wanted," said Mike DuHaime, a veteran GOP strategist.

The more the focus is on Covid, the worse it is for him, because he wants this to be a referendum on the future, not on 2020," DuHaime added.

The news caught many Trump aides by surprise and sent them scrambling to figure out how to proceed. By early Friday afternoon, Stepien released a statement saying that "all previously announced ...