The coronavirus pandemic will be a dark cloud hangingover this week’s Democratic convention — and will be the key part of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s messaging.
Biden’s path to the White House is tied to the pandemic in that he argues Trump’s complete mishandling of the crisis is the ultimate reason voters should end his presidency at one term.
The Convention, which will be held with no crowds given the health risks of the pandemic, Biden and other speakers will use the COVID-19 crisis to highlight Trump’s failure as they seek to convince voters to turn him out of office.
“Donald Trump is responsible for the worst failure of presidential leadership in modern history and still to this day has yet to implement a national plan to control a virus that has killed over 160,000 and left millions of Americans out of work and fighting for their livelihoods,” said TJ Ducklo, Biden’s national press secretary.
“There are thousands of lives lost and millions more who are needlessly unemployed all because this president cares more about getting himself reelected than he does about the health and safety of his fellow Americans,” Ducklo said.
“Simply put: It didn’t have to be this bad. We are going to remind the American people that every day until Nov. 3,” Ducklo added.
Speakers at the convention will also focus on other themes, including racial justice, health care and the economy, but they will repeatedly return to the pandemic as they make their pitches before a captive national audience.
Monday night’s theme, “We the People,” will feature speakers who “have risen up to face three defining challenges in modern American life,” the coronavirus pandemic being one of them. The resulting unemployment crisis and racial injustice are the other two challenges speakers will highlight.
Biden, who will not travel to Milwaukee to accept his party’s nomination because of the coronavirus, is expected to hammer the pandemic in his own address. His team hopes the convention itself shows a contrast between how Trump and Biden would handle the pandemic.
“The COVID story allows Joe Biden to say everything he needs to about Donald Trump in one tight narrative,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “There’s even a stunning visual contrast — masked and safety-first Dems versus unmasked and reckless GOPers.”
“COVID isn’t just a public health disaster,” Setzer added. “It’s a devastating, compelling horror movie of a nation brought to its knees by a malicious, incompetent and corrupt government.”
The Trump campaign is ready to fight back, and the White House in recent weeks has stepped up its efforts to tout Trump’s handling of the crisis.
“Joe Biden has conveniently been armchair quarterbacking the entire crisis response, floating ‘ideas’ that turn out to be action President Trump has already taken,” said Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign.
“If Biden were in the White House, he wouldn’t have banned travel from China in January, and the United States would be in a much worse position as a result. The American people have seen bold leadership from President Trump throughout this pandemic, all while Joe Biden has used coronavirus as an excuse to cower in his basement to avoid the American people — and now his own convention in Wisconsin,” Zager added.
Polls in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — both of which helped carry Trump in 2016 — echo the strategist’s sentiment. A poll out last week showed that voters in both states believe Biden would do a better job handling the coronavirus, according to a CBS News-YouGov battleground survey.
Biden leads Trump 49 to 43 percent in Pennsylvania and 48 to 42 percent in Wisconsin. In both states, those surveyed said they didn’t think Trump was doing all he could to fight the pandemic’s spread.
Since March, when the nation began to shut down, Biden — who has largely remained confined to his Wilmington, Del., home — has made the pandemic central to his campaign. He has urged Americans to wear masks, follow the advice of doctors and scientists, and practice social distancing.
Trump has largely done the opposite, giving Biden an opening.
“Voters already feel anger and frustration,” said Basil Smikle, who serves as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party and is a former aide to Hillary Clinton. “So Biden just needs to remind them why.”
Last week, in her first appearance as Biden’s running mate, SenatorKamala Harris of California blasted Trump and his administration for the failure of leadership.
“The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut,” Harris said. “This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start.”
“This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job,” she continued.
Biden also took to Twitter, where he blasted Trump on policy issues including health care.
“Don’t forget that in the middle of this pandemic, the Trump administration is in court trying to eliminate Obamacare and rip health insurance away from millions. It’s heartless,” he wrote.
Biden also wants to send a message that he and his administration would listen to scientists and health experts, the implication being that Trump did not.
In a separate tweet last week, Biden said he would speak and listen to Dr.AnthonyFauci, the federal government’s top official on infectious diseases. Fauci has come under criticism at times from Trump and other White House officials.
“I promise you, if I’m elected I won’t waste any time getting this virus under control. I’ll call Dr. Fauci and ask him to stay on,” Biden tweeted. “I’ll bring together top experts and leaders from both parties to chart a path forward. We’ll get it done, together.”
In June, Biden gave a preview of what his convention speech might look like.
“The president talks about, you know, manhood and, you know, and being strong and you don’t need the mask,” Biden said. “I think we have to start appealing to the better side of human nature by pointing out that that mask is not so much to protect me. It’s to protect other people.”
“And it’s called patriotism,” he said. “It’s called responsibility.”