President Donald Trump during a tour of the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center, where the vaccine candidate Novavax is being developed, on Monday.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump needs a COVID-19 vaccine ready by Election Day if he is to win, White House advisers told the Associated Press.

With the president trailing in recent polls and a majority of Americans disapproving of his pandemic response, a vaccine breakthrough could be the perfect “October surprise” to turn his fortunes around.

Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have recently made trips in key battleground states to highlight progress on the administration’s vaccine development, the AP reported.

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White House officials believe President Donald Trump is in sore need of a COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough to secure his reelection in November, according to an Associated Press report.

Many aides believe that the timely arrival of a vaccine could make the difference between success and failure, the AP reported.

Others are more pessimistic, as the pandemic could prompt unusual numbers of Americans to vote before Election Day, shortening the time available for a breakthrough, the report said.

Trump’s poll numbers have been in steady decline throughout the pandemic. As of Monday he was 8.2 percentage points behind the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, in FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average.

Trump has begun to wear a mask in public — something he previously refused to do.

ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Public approval of Trump’s coronavirus response has plummeted, despite a change in tone in mid-July, in which he began advocating face coverings and finally seemed to acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic.

As of Monday, however, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average showed 60% of Americans disapproving of his response to the pandemic.

A vaccine could be the perfect “October surprise” to turn the president’s reelection campaign around, the AP reported, citing unnamed White House officials.

As a reflection of the electoral impact a vaccine might have, the longtime Republican strategist Charlie Black told The Atlantic, with a laugh, that the president would “probably announce a vaccine in October.”

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Vice President Mike Pence.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Regardless of whether a vaccine will be ready by Election Day, the president has been highlighting the progress his administration has made.

Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spent Monday visiting sites that are developing vaccines under Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s effort to have a vaccine available for all its 300 million citizens by January.

Trump visited the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center production facility in North Carolina, while Pence spoke in Miami to commemorate the beginning of the third phase of testing of Moderna’s vaccine candidate.

Both North Carolina and Florida are key battleground states in the election. Trump won Florida in the 2016 election but is now trailing Biden there in polling, CNN reported.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, on Monday expressed cautious optimism that a vaccine might be ready this year, the AP reported.

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