President Trump’s announcement early Friday that he had contracted the coronavirus upended the presidential race in an instant, inviting significant questions about his cavalier attitude toward the pandemic and the future of his campaign just 32 days before the election.

Mr. Trump had already been trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the polls, in part because of his mishandling of a virus that has unsettled the day-to-day lives of voters for over six months. The president compounded his difficulties by disregarding and at times belittling the basic precautions, such as wearing a mask, that his health advisers were urging Americans to take to protect themselves.

Now, though, his personal indifference toward the virus could threaten his own health, the stability of the country and his already dimming hopes for re-election.

Strategists in both parties and even senior aides to Mr. Trump said the president would face a harsh judgment from voters for throwing the country into greater uncertainty after one of the most trying years in American history.

“It’s hard to imagine this doesn’t end his hopes of re-election,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant, pointing to Mr. Trump’s “flaunting of obvious precautions.”

Mr. Trump’s political fortunes will depend in part on the severity of his illness. Other world leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, have been sickened by the virus and returned to lead their countries.

The 74-year-old president is older than his counterparts who have contracted the virus, however, and they were not on the ballot when they tested positive.

Even if he does fully recover after his isolation period, millions of Americans are already voting right now, via mail-in ballot or in-person early voting.

After a year that began with Mr. Trump’s impeachment and has included a pandemic, an economic collapse, racial justice protests and urban unrest as well as the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this October surprise could also prompt voters to seek a respite from the tumult.

In the White House, advisers to the president acknowledged that the positive test would remind voters of how dismissive Mr. Trump had been about the virus, not only with his own neglect of safety but also in his overly rosy assessments about a pandemic that has killed more than 207,000 people in the United States. Mr. Trump’s recklessness, one adviser admitted, amounted to a political “disaster.”

NYTIMES

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