Enjoying his greatest poll lead in campaign so far, Joe Biden will keep focus on US coronavirus response

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is enjoying his greatest poll lead of the election campaign so far, while nearly two-thirds of Americans say US President Donald Trump probably wouldn't have been infected if he'd taken better safety precautions.

Democratic presidential candidate former Joe Biden arrives at the Queen Theater for virtual town hall.

Democratic presidential candidate former Joe Biden arrives at the Queen Theater for a virtual town hall event on 7 October. Source: AAP

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.

Mr Biden holds a 14-point lead over Mr Trump in a national poll taken after their first presidential debate and released on Sunday.

Mr Biden has the support of 53 per cent of registered voters in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, compared to Mr Trump’s 39 per cent.

The former vice president’s current advantage over Mr Trump is his largest of the 2020 campaign.

Mr Biden, who tested negative on Sunday, five days after debating with Mr Trump, has repeatedly wished the President a speedy recovery. But Mr Biden and his aides have used the president’s positive test to underline a consistent campaign message: Mr Biden would handle the pandemic better than Mr Trump.

Deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said on Sunday that Mr 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".

US President Donald Trump works in his conference room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.
Source: Joyce N.Boghosian/Sipa USA

“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’s This Week, 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.

Nine states have also reported record increases in cases over the last seven days, mostly in the upper Midwest and West.

On Saturday alone, four states - Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, and Wisconsin - saw record increases in new cases and nationally nearly 49,000 new infections were reported, the highest for a Saturday in seven weeks. Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming also set new records for cases last week.

New York is one of only 18 states where cases have not risen greatly over the past two weeks. However, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he is moving to shut non-essential businesses as well as schools in nine neighbourhoods, starting on Wednesday. The lockdown would require the governor’s approval.

The proposal, which must be approved by state Governor Andrew Cuomo, marks a major setback for America's largest city since it was hit hard in March by the coronavirus. The city has lost almost 24,000 people to the virus.

Mr Biden is expected to campaign in Florida on Monday, where polls show a tight race to win the state’s crucial 29 electoral college votes.

Voting is already well underway - 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 3 November.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken between 2 and 3 October, after the president tested positive for the coronavirus, found that nearly two-thirds of Americans thought that Mr Trump probably would not have been infected if he had taken the virus more seriously.

Twenty thousand empty chairs were placed near the White House to memorialise the over 200,000 people in the US who died with COVID-19.
Source: AAP

Mr Biden’s campaign has pulled TV and online ads attacking Mr Trump, which Ms Bedingfield said reflected the candidate’s belief in “civility".

Mr Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller on Sunday continued the campaign’s attacks on Mr Biden’s cautious approach to the virus, and said Mr Biden used protective masks “as a prop".

“We can’t all just stay in our basement for the rest of our lives,” Mr Miller told This Week, also pushing back against criticism of MrTrump 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 Mr Trump will return to the campaign trail, if at all, and whether he will be able to participate in the second presidential debate on 15 October. 

Mr Trump’s campaign said on Saturday high-profile allies including Vice President Mike Pence and Mr Trump’s elder sons, Donald Jr and Eric, would take over in-person campaigning this week.

Mr Pence, who tested negative on Friday, is scheduled to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.

Published 5 October 2020 at 7:57am, updated 5 October 2020 at 11:11am
Source: Reuters - SBS