With President Donald Trump undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a military hospital, Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s campaign is looking to keep its focus on the nation’s response to the pandemic in the final month before the presidential election.
Former Vice President Biden, who tested negative on Friday, three days after debating with Trump, has repeatedly wished the president a speedy recovery.
But Biden and his aides have used the president’s positive test to underline a consistent campaign message: Biden would handle the pandemic better than Trump.
Deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield on Sunday said Biden would continue to make the case for the remaining 30 days of the campaign that he has “the steady hand to get this country through this crisis”.
“It’s a choice between two different styles of leadership and since the virus came to our shores back in the spring, Joe Biden has led by example,” she told ABC, citing the campaign’s use of masks, social distancing and limits on the number of people at campaign events. “I think that that’s what the American people are looking for.”
The United States has recorded 7.4 million coronavirus infections and more than 209,000 deaths in the pandemic, more than any other nation. Trump briefly had an opportunity to pivot the public’s focus away from COVID-19 when the death last month of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave him the chance to name a third lifetime appointment to the top court before his own illness returned the spotlight to the disease.
Biden is expected on Monday to campaign in Florida, where polls show a tight race to win the state’s crucial 29 electoral college votes.
Voting is already well under way – more than 3.3 million ballots had been cast nationwide by Sunday, according to the Elections Project at the University of Florida – as more Americans vote early or by mail to avoid being exposed to the virus at crowded polling places on Election Day, November 3.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken on October 2-3, after the president tested positive for the coronavirus, found Biden leading Trump by 10 percentage points nationally and nearly two-thirds of Americans thought Trump probably would not have been infected if he had taken the virus more seriously.
Biden’s campaign has pulled TV and online advertisements attacking Trump, which Bedingfield said reflected the candidate’s belief in “civility”.
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller on Sunday continued the campaign’s attacks on Biden’s cautious approach to the virus, and said Biden used protective masks “as a prop.”
“We can’t all just stay in our basement for the rest of our lives,” Miller told
“This Week,” also pushing back against criticism of Trump for not taking more precautions to protect himself and others from the virus. “We have to get out there and live our lives and take this on.”
It remains uncertain when Trump will return to the campaign trail, if at all, and whether he will be able to participate in the second presidential debate on October 15.
Trump’s campaign on Saturday said high-profile allies including Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s elder sons, Donald Jr and Eric, would take over in-person campaigning this week.
Pence, who tested negative on Friday, is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday.