(CN) — As his campaign for the White House enters the final stretch, Joe Biden indicated during a Friday stump speech that he will continue to hammer President Donald Trump on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as cases surge across the nation.
“Trump has refused to take responsibility for a crisis that should have been met with real presidential leadership,” Biden said in prepared remarks from a live music venue in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden’s choice to focus almost exclusively on Trump’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates his campaign’s desire to move on from the wide-ranging topics brought up in Thursday’s final debate between the two candidates and focus the conversation on an issue Biden clearly thinks is a winning one.
The former vice president said the pandemic “dwarfed” any public health crisis in the nation’s history. He went on to say Trump’s inability to establish a national testing program, promote the views of scientists and public health officials and promote common-sense measures like wearing masks in public has resulted in a general failure of the country to successfully grapple with the disease.
“The United States has 4% of the world’s population yet we account for 20% of the deaths worldwide,” Biden said. “If that’s success, then what does failure look like?”
The Trump campaign meanwhile is as dedicated as ever to glossing over difficulties with the pandemic and has instead attempted to turn the conversation to issues it considers favorable.
Specifically, Trump seized upon Biden’s admission that he would try to turn the nation’s energy infrastructure away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.
“While President Trump proposes pro-growth policies to deliver the Great American Comeback and maintain energy independence, Joe Biden would happily sacrifice millions of good, blue-collar jobs in the oil and gas industry to appease his radical base,” the Trump campaign said in a statement Friday.
The strategy is likely tailored to appeal specifically to voters in Pennsylvania, where a shale fracking boom has created many jobs and an economic windfall for the state in recent years.
Pennsylvania is one of three states, along with Michigan and Wisconsin, that Biden would need to retake from Trump to win the White House if all of the other states stay the same as 2016.
Polls have shown Trump trailing in all three states, but GOP operatives have expressed optimism in recent days that Trump’s campaign is gaining ground in Pennsylvania.
Both candidates appear to be coalescing around a closing message as the race enters the final leg.
Biden will continue to play up the pandemic’s wild spread, while Trump will attempt to cast Biden as the handmaiden for policies favored by the more radical and leftward wing of the Democratic Party.
So far, casting Biden — who ran as a moderate Democrat — as a radical candidate has not made a dent in the polls. But Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead in the polls that narrowed and ultimately vanished in the week leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Biden said he would install a national coronavirus testing plan and use the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of masks, eyewear and gowns for health care employees.
He promised to lean on governors and mayors around the nation to implement mask mandates until a reliable vaccine could be produced. He vowed to make a safe vaccine free and freely available for all Americans.
“Life-saving material should not be available only to the wealthy and well-connected,” Biden said.
He also used the cost of vaccines and treatment for Covid-19 to segue into the importance of health care, reiterating his belief that health care is a right, not a privilege.
“I will add a public option to compete with private health care plans,” Biden said, warning the Trump administration and a conservative-dominated Supreme Court are eyeing the destruction of Obamacare. But Biden promised he would not only save it — he will expand it.
From Friday’s speech, it appears Biden will continue to concentrate on coronavirus management, health care and the character defects of the president as we enter the final week of a long campaign.