By Annie Karni
Nov. 2, 2020
This was not the 2020 that President Trump had envisioned for himself.
The year began with Mr. Trump embroiled in a monthslong impeachment proceeding, which scrutinized his pressure campaign on the president of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals at home. That was, in retrospect, the easy part of the year.
From the Democratic primary race emerged perhaps the trickiest opponent for him — Joseph R. Biden Jr., a centrist with moderate appeal. A pandemic killed more than 230,000 people in the United States and devastated the economic gains that were to serve as his main argument for re-election.
But Mr. Trump was already holding rage-filled campaign rallies in January, warning that Democrats’ efforts to remove him from office were designed to “nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans.”
Jan. 30: Des Moines
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Mr. Trump hosted Judge Barrett, her family and Republican lawmakers at the White House for a formal announcement ceremony the next weekend. There was no social distancing and few wore masks.
Sept. 26: The Supreme CourtCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York TimesSept. 26: The White HouseCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Trump spent the first presidential debate interrupting Mr. Biden nearly every time he spoke. The debate devolved into an ugly brawl that polls showed hurt the president.
Sept. 29: ClevelandCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Less than 48 hours after the debate, Mr. Trump announced on Twitter that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he remained for three days. The White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, delivered confusion and obfuscation with his updates on the president’s condition.
Upon his return to the White House, Mr. Trump was unrepentant about his efforts to play down the virus. “Don’t let it dominate your lives,” he urged Americans.
Oct. 2: Bethesda, Md.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesOct. 4: Bethesda, Md.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York TimesOct. 5: The White HouseCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Mr. Trump roared back to the campaign trail after his recovery. In the final weeks of the race, as the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketed nationwide, his leading message to supporters was to trust him that the worst of the pandemic was over. He railed against the news media for continuing to cover the health crisis.
Oct. 12: Andrews Air Force BaseCredit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesOct. 13: Johnstown, Pa.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesOct. 14: Des MoinesCredit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesOct. 16: Macon, Ga.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesOct. 14: Des MoinesCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Trump’s advisers persuaded him to tone down his performance in the second and final debate. Even though he played nicer with the moderator and let Mr. Biden speak, he did little to change the trajectory of the race or to toggle the focus away from his handling of the pandemic.
Oct. 22: NashvilleCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Eight days before the election, Mr. Trump won confirmation of his third Supreme Court justice. He immediately hosted a nighttime ceremony on the White House lawn to swear in Ms. Barrett. The outdoor gathering was a mirror image of the potential superspreader event he held a month earlier to announce her nomination.
Oct. 26: The White HouseCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
In the closing days of the campaign, Mr. Trump barnstormed the country as if the virus that defined much of his year did not exist. His lagging position in the polls was evident in his grueling travel schedule, which had him seeking to shore up votes in states that he won in 2016, with up to five stops a day.
Instead of focusing his closing argument on the economy, he accused doctors of fabricating coronavirus cases in order to make money, complained about the bitter cold in states like Michigan, and hinted he wanted to fire Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. His last stop before Election Day was Michigan, a repeat of his travel schedule four years ago.
Nov. 2: Traverse City, Mich.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesOct. 30: Rochester, Minn.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesNov. 1: Rome, Ga.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesNov. 2: Kenosha, Wis.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times