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Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, elicited criticism on Tuesday after he accused President Trump of ignoring early warning signs about the coronavirus pandemic and worsening the dual health and economic crises the nation faces.
On Monday, the former vice president, in a makeshift studio from his home in Delaware, made his first public comments about the epidemic in more than a week as some Democrats began to worry about Biden’s lack of visibility.
Biden used his platform to hammer the White House’s response to the virus as insufficient and called on Trump to act like the “wartime president” he says he is.
“Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response,” he added. “I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right.”
But while Biden’s comments may have assuaged fears among some Democrats that the leading Democratic candidate, who’s not yet locked in the number of delegates he needs to secure the party’s nomination, would cede the limelight to Trump during the unprecedented crisis, it also raised concerns that he could alienate independent voters.
“I think he sort of has to say that. I’m not sure it’s a good look,” said William McGurn, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. “It’s a difficult position when you’re trying to be president, and the president himself is always going to look presidential just by making decisions. People who normally wouldn’t have sympathy for a president of the other party might have it in this case. I’m not sure it’s a good look for Joe Biden.”
Plenty of Americans approve of the job Trump has been doing to address COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and his approval rating has risen over the past week. A Monmouth University poll released Monday found that 50 percent of respondents believe Trump has done a “good job” dealing with the outbreak, while 45 percent say he has done a “bad job.”
“Frankly, I think that if Joe Biden were smart and really wanted to get those marginal voters, he’d be criticizing those Democrats in Congress for holding this thing up,” McGurn said. “Meanwhile the president is on television every day with a press conference making decisions and giving us updates. That’s a hard thing to beat.”
Biden released a plan at the beginning of the month to address the virus, including guaranteeing free COVID-19 tests for those who need it, rushing resources to hospitals and health care workers to ensure they’re equipped to handle the pandemic and creating a fund for paid sick leave, capped out at $1,400 per week, or about $72,800 in annual earnings.
The Trump administration is currently pushing for the passage of a $2 trillion bill that would send checks of up to $1,200 to taxpayers who earn less than $99,000 a year, provide loans for small businesses and large tax cuts for big corporations. Lawmakers appeared poised to close in on an agreement on the package on Tuesday.
Work on the bill follows the enactment of an $8.3 billion package of emergency funding for prevention efforts and research earlier this month, and the passage of a bill aimed at expanding the social safety net, including free COVID-19 testing, even for the uninsured, extending paid sick leave to more Americans and providing billions in funding to state and local governments for food programs and unemployment benefits.