Washington                   -              President Donald Trump’s reelection battle against Joe Biden was always going to be wild -- and then came the coronavirus, killing nearly 90,000 Americans, scuttling the economy and throwing the race into surreal confusion.

Less than six months before election day, neither candidate can campaign normally, voters wonder whether they’ll be safe, and Trump suddenly faces what amounts to a referendum on his handling of a once-in-a-century crisis. “We really don’t know how this is going to play out,” politics professor Christopher Arterton at George Washington University told AFP.

Four months ago the narratives of the 2020 election seemed clear. Touting record low unemployment and solid GDP growth, Trump promised four more years of a presidency molded on his persona of the hard-nosed businessman.

Biden, milking nostalgia for the now seemingly calm years of his vice presidency under Barack Obama, vowed to end the scandals and division of Trump’s reality show-style administration and restore “the soul of America.”

Biden, 77, led in polls, but many believed that Trump, 73, would seize the upper hand on November 3. The last incumbent to lose reelection was George Bush in 1992 and, historically, presidents presiding over strong economies are almost invulnerable.

Exuding macho self-confidence, Trump toured the country for political rallies with his adoring right-wing base, and delivered a seductively simple message: aggressive nationalism abroad, jobs at home.

How, Trump openly wondered at his rallies, could the man he brutally insults as “Sleepy Joe” even compete? Then the coronavirus tore up the script.

Trump wanted America praising his triumphs. Instead, his fate rests on how people will judge his handling of a disaster.