With his job on the line, next November’s national election is never far from the mind of President Donald Trump, even as he confronts the country’s growing death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can’t imagine any president doing more than I have,” Trump boasted during a nearly hour-long interview Monday on one of his favorite shows, “Fox & Friends” on the Fox News channel.
The Republican Trump assailed his likely Democratic presidential opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, saying, “If Sleepy Joe was president, he wouldn’t know what was going on” about the coronavirus.
A staple of U.S. political campaigns — large rallies with cheering, flag-waving supporters — is nothing but a memory, with Trump extending social distancing guidelines in the U.S. through April and calling for bans on gatherings of all but small groups of people. Both Trump and Biden have abandoned such rallies in favor of taking potshots at each other over the airwaves.
Biden has appeared on nationally televised town halls and news talk shows, mostly from a studio in his home in the eastern state of Delaware. He appears to have an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates to July’s planned national Democratic presidential nominating convention over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, although Sanders has shown no intention of dropping out of the contest and conceding the nomination to Biden.
Trump on Sunday extended the social distancing guidelines through April after last week saying he wanted the country open again by Easter Sunday, April 12. Appearing on TV shortly before Trump’s announcement, Biden said the U.S. leader should “stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply” about how his administration deals with the coronavirus.
“Look, the coronavirus is not the president’s fault,” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show. “But the slow response, the failure to get going right away, the inability to do the things that needed to be done quickly — they are things that can’t continue.”
“He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts,” Biden said, which is what Trump later said he did in extending the social distancing guidelines past Monday when they were set to expire.
With general approval of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis since his initial reticence to publicly accept that it would be a problem in the U.S., Americans have shown a new liking for Trump.
“My poll numbers have been the highest ever,” Trump declared in the Fox interview, even though they still register on the negative side of the ledger.
In the latest compilation of poll results, the Realclearpolitics.com site says 47.3% of American voters approve of Trump’s performance in office, with 49.3% reacting unfavorably.
Similarly, polling shows Biden slightly edging Trump about seven months ahead of the November balloting, with the outcome generally considered too close to call. Three polls in the last week show Biden ahead of Trump by 2, 3 and 9 percentage points.
In the 2016 contest, Trump lost the national popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by 2%, but won the presidency where it matters in the U.S., in the electoral college where the national outcome is decided by the vote winner in each of the 50 states.
In the Fox interview, Trump said he thinks New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would be a tougher Democratic presidential opponent than Biden. Cuomo has been widely acclaimed for his handling of the coronavirus crisis in his state, the hardest hit in the U.S., and his daily televised press conferences.
“One of the reasons he’s been successful is the federal government” assistance to New York, Trump said, while saying, “I think Andrew would be better” as a presidential candidate than Biden.
Pelosi blames Trump
While attacking Biden, Trump assailed another Democratic political foe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She claimed Sunday that Trump’s actions have proved deadly and cost lives in the U.S., because of his failure to recognize the seriousness of the coronavirus threat in the early weeks of 2020 and laggard efforts to dispatch medical equipment across the country before ramping up in March.
Pelosi told CNN that Trump’s “denial at the beginning was deadly” and that as he “fiddles, people are dying.”
“She’s a sick puppy in my opinion,” Trump said. “Somehow there’s something wrong with the woman.”