Coronavirus is emerging as a major issue in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign as six states held primaries on mini-Super Tuesday for voters to select their prefered presidential candidates this year.
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and veteran Senator Bernie Sanders, two major candidates in the Democratic presidential race, cancelled their rallies scheduled for Tuesday night over coronavirus concerns in separate announcements, the first disruptions the outbreak has caused in the presidential primary. Facing no major challenges in the party, sitting President Donald Trump is expected to win the Republican primaries. He regularly holds campaign rallies before every Democratic primary election. However, a Trump rally on the eve of the Tuesday primary in Michigan, a key battleground state, was missing in his schedule, USA Today reported. As of Tuesday, at least 34 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have reported more than 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with at least 30 deaths, local media reported.
Both Biden and Sanders campaigns thanked supporters who planned to attend the events on Tuesday when the states of Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington held primaries. Earlier, the two contenders repeatedly slammed Trump over his coronavirus response.”I wish he would just be quiet. I really mean it,” Biden said of the president on NBC News. “Just let the experts speak. And acknowledge whatever they suggest to him is what we should be doing.” “I will rebuild public trust, make sure we have dedicated resources to help us respond to crises quickly, and better harness the capabilities of the private sector to protect the American people,” the former vice president wrote in a USA Today op-ed earlier this month, citing his experience in combating the 2014 Ebola outbreak during the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Sanders hit the Trump administration over its appointment of Vice President Pence to lead virus response and used the chance to promote his signature “Medicare for All” proposal. “When you (Trump) appoint Vice President Pence, an individual who also doesn’t much believe in science, what you are telling the whole world is that we are politicizing this issue, rather than dealing with it from a data, research, scientific basis,” Sanders said at a Fox News town hall on Monday. “When I talk about healthcare being a human right, and all people having healthcare, the coronavirus crisis makes that abundantly clear as to why it should be,” Sanders said. Facing the fast spread of the virus, Trump on Tuesday morning retweeted tweets from conservative activist Charlie Kirk saying that the United States needs a wall on its southern border to protect the country from the coronavirus.”Going up fast. We need the Wall more than ever!” Trump said when retweeting. So far there have been no reports of anyone in the United States being infected with coronavirus from someone crossing the border from Mexico, local media reported.
The president said Monday that his administration will ask Congress to approve a possible payroll tax cut and provide “very substantial relief” for hourly workers and industries hit by the outbreak. Trump also said the administration would ask the Small Business Administration to aid small businesses, while working with companies in the airline and cruise industries to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve lowered the target range for the federal funds rate by 50 basis points to 1 to 1.25 percent, its first emergency rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis, as the COVID-19 outbreak has posed “evolving risks” to economic activity. Concerns over worldwide spread of coronavirus is creating deep economic uncertainty at a time when Trump is looking to ride stronger growth to reelection, analysts say. “Coronavirus will be a major issue during the elections because of the Trump administration’s poor handling of the health crisis and the negative impact on economic growth,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West said.Ed Hyman, chairman of Evercore ISI, forecast zero growth for the second and third quarters of this year. That would be “devastating for Trump’s reelection prospects,” West said, noting that Trump’s best campaign platform is the strong economy.