SALEM, N.H. — Among the Trump faithful, the president’s hospitalization for the coronavirus changed little in their worldview of the virus, his handling of the pandemic, or their unquestioned support for him.
“I’m just going to be glued to the TV tonight and tomorrow,” said Sal Linzetto, 79, a resident of Atkinson, N.H, outside a store that sells Trump paraphernalia. “I’m going to be watching to hear that [Trump] is just wonderful, and every day just gets healthier, and can get back on the trail in seven to 10 days.”
Now that his COVID-19 diagnosis has made Trump the face of the global pandemic a month before Election Day, some of his most ardent supporters said he has handled the crisis as well as could be expected. And they are not abandoning their candidate at his hour of reckoning.
“I’m not saying that he purposely got it, but maybe he’s trying to show the public that it’s serious but not as serious as the left would try to make it out to be," said Tom Anderson, who lives in Salem, which backed the Republican Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.
Trump “did a great job” confronting the virus, Anderson said. “What else could he have done to prevent this?” he asked.
On Saturday afternoon, Trump tweeted about his condition from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was hospitalized Friday evening on the advice of his doctors.
“Tremendous progress has been made over the last 6 months in fighting this PLAGUE,” wrote Trump, who praised the doctors and nurses treating him. “With their help, I am feeling well!”
About 30 minutes later, Trump tweeted that the nation “WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS.”
Earlier Saturday, Trump’s doctors and a top aide presented a confused picture of the president’s condition at a briefing outside Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. One doctor said Trump wasn’t experiencing complications and had been fever free for more than 24 hours.
But the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, subsequently told reporters that the next 48 hours will be “critical” in determining the president’s recovery, according to media accounts.
Meanwhile, The New York Times, citing two people close to the White House, reported Trump had trouble breathing on Friday and that his oxygen level dropped. Before leaving for the hospital, the newspaper reported, Trump received supplemental oxygen at the White House.
Christine Dube, a retired respiratory therapist from Methuen, Mass., said Trump’s diagnosis is a testament to his leadership. She bought a sign from the Trump store that reads, “Jesus is my savior. Trump is my president.”
“He’s a leader. He was leading his troops. And leaders can get in trouble leading their troops. But the ones who hide in their boardrooms, their war rooms, they live to be old men and retire. That doesn’t mean you’re a good leader,” said Dube.
She praised Trump’s handling of the virus outbreak, citing his decision to restrict travel from China in February and push for a vaccine with Operation Warp Speed.
What worries Dube?
“I’m afraid the other side will kill him while they got him in the hospital,” she said. “It’s so easy to die while you’re in the hospital.”
In 2016, New Hampshire provided a launching pad for Trump, providing his first-ever election victory in the primary. In the general election, he lost the state by fewer than 3,000 votes.
While campaigning for reelection, Trump traveled to New Hampshire the day after he accepted his party’s nomination in August, hosting a rally in Londonderry, N.H. Vice President Mike Pence visited Laconia Airport last month, and Eric Trump, Melania Trump, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have also traveled to the state recently.
Recent polls, however, indicate former vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger, has the advantage in New Hampshire. Biden’s wife, Jill, visited the state Friday, making stops in Durham and Manchester.
The same day, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, tweeted his wishes for a speedy recovery for Trump and his wife. As of Saturday morning, COVID-19 had claimed the lives of 442 of the 8,597 residents in the state who tested positive. New Hampshire doesn’t have a statewide order requiring residents to wear masks, though some communities, including Portsmouth and Nashua, have implemented local mandates.
Samantha B, of Atkinson, whom the Globe has granted anonymity, visited the Trump store Saturday with her husband and two young children. She said Trump’s diagnosis doesn’t change her view of him, noting how the virus has infected other public figures including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. and a campaign official.
“Over 7 million people in this country have already had it,” Samantha said.
Kara Bean, of Methuen, Mass., said she was “astonished” by Trump’s positive test.
“I couldn’t believe that he had it,” Bean said.
Her boyfriend, Chris Auger, said no one is safe from COVID-19.
“It’s everywhere. It could happen to anyone, even the president of the United States,” he said.
Mark Landers, of Haverhill, Mass., said Trump’s diagnosis humanizes him.
“It gives him the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I could have done a better job wearing masks,’ ” said Landers, who visited the store with his son, Ben, and bought merchandise that expressed support for law enforcement.
Landers said he’s had some concerns about Trump’s coronavirus strategy, but backed his decision to restrict travel from China and reopen the economy to help small businesses.
“I don’t think he has been tolerant of and appreciative of the science and I think that if you don’t agree with him then you don’t get to speak with him anymore,” Landers said. “I think the people run around trying to agree with him because they know that’s the only voice they have. They won’t have a voice if they don’t.”
John Trocki, of Ipswich, Mass., visited the store with a friend, Mark Eaton, of North Port, Fla.
“I don’t think Democrats or anybody could have done any better,” said Trocki. “Like I said, when this pandemic started, they were too busy hunkering down in their mansions. Did you see any of them?”
Eaton offered his prediction for the November election.
Trump is “going to win by a landslide,” he said.