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Politics Chat: Trump And Biden's COVID-19 Campaign Responses


The pandemic is dictating how both presidential candidates campaign. One is spinning his handling of it. The other is basically calling that spin malarkey. Joining me now, as he - as she does most Sundays is NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Good morning, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump is back to holding rallies, sort of.

LIASSON: Sort of - not the humongous arena-fillers he used to do. Yesterday he spoke in Minden, Nev., a rural part of Nevada, to a smaller crowd outside without masks and not socially distanced, but that was because he had to scrap a larger rally that he wanted to hold in Reno because local officials are following the Trump administration's own guidelines from the CDC about how many people can gather together.

So I think it just shows you how he has had trouble putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror, which is what he wants to do. About 30 minutes into his 90-minute speech yesterday, he did talk about the pandemic. He blamed China. He said that we are now rounding the corner, and he said a vaccine might be ready before the election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joe Biden is also making forceful statements condemning recent revelations - two weeks ago, a report alleging that Trump called fallen soldiers losers. Last week, there was those bombshell recordings of his conversations with journalist Bob Woodward.

LIASSON: Right, which you played earlier in the show. On February 7, as you heard him, he told Woodward it was airborne; the virus was deadlier than the flu. But in public, at the same time, he was saying something exactly the opposite. He says he didn't want to cause a panic. And even though many people didn't panic, they also followed his lead and didn't take precautions, didn't wear a mask.

Joe Biden has called this a, quote, "life-and-death betrayal of the American people." He said it was beyond despicable. Again, no matter how much the president tries to put the virus in the rearview mirror, the Woodward book put the virus and his leading - his leadership around it back front and center.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is Joe Biden saying when he's not criticizing the president?

LIASSON: When he's not criticizing the president, he actually has been laying out some policies. He laid out a buy American plan last week - tax advantages for companies that keep manufacturing in the U.S., tax disadvantages for ones that move them out of the country. He also laid out a plan for how the federal government, if he was president, would combat the pandemic. He announced a list of people from former Obama, Clinton and Bush appointees who would be in charge of distributing a vaccine, personal protective equipment, how the federal government would ramp up testing and contact tracing and open schools safely.

But, you know, he also has a hard time talking about anything other than Trump. You know, Trump's supporters are very enthusiastic to vote for Trump. Biden's supporters are very enthusiastic to vote against Trump. This is a Trump-centric race, and no matter how the president tries to make it into a binary choice between him and Biden, it keeps on coming back to being a referendum on the incumbent.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Finally, Mara, there is reporting today that former New York mayor and Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend a hundred million dollars to help Joe Biden in Florida in particular. What's that about?

LIASSON: There's not reporting. The Bloomberg campaign announced this. This is a potential game-changer in Florida. It forces Trump to spend money in Florida because he can't win without Florida. Joe Biden has some paths to 270 electoral votes without Florida. Democrats will be very happy about this. They now will wait to see if Bloomberg is going to drop $50 million in North Carolina or 30 million in Georgia or maybe 10 million in Alabama to help Doug Jones. Remember, Mike Bloomberg has been...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A lot of hands out.

LIASSON: Yep, a lot of hands out. Mike Bloomberg has been the biggest single donor on the Democratic side this cycle. He famously promised to spend whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump. He spent about a billion dollars on his own primary campaign. He's not there yet, but this hundred million dollars in Florida is a very big deal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Thank you very much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMMY GUERRERO'S "211") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.