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Saturday, 11 April 2020

Here’s How COVID-19 Helps — And Hurts — Both Trump And Biden

In any other presidential election year, a lot of people would be talking — a lot — about the race.
Not this time around. It’s COVID-19 every minute, 24/7, and it’s likely to stay that way for quite some time.
The virus sweeping the U.S. is helping — and hurting — both President Trump and his presumptive opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. Here’s how:
THE BULLY PULPIT
One guy has it, the other doesn’t.
Trump is seen daily across most TV networks holding a lengthy press conference, sometimes running more than two hours. Every day, he is the face of the federal government’s response to SARS-CoV-2.
The president leads the briefings as commander in chief, offering both optimism and pessimism. He releases all the daily numbers on the virus, then calls on his experts to deliver more data. 
“To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency,” Trump said as he led the first White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing March 12 — making clear he was fully in charge.
The president has also made a slew of other savvy moves. On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic. That same day, Trump created the Task Force to coordinate U.S. efforts regarding the new disease. The next day, the president declared coronavirus a U.S. public health emergency and issued a travel ban between the United States and China. 
Meanwhile, Biden has been holed up in his house in Delaware, struggling with how to communicate with Americans as often as Trump.
Late last month, Biden held his first coronavirus shadow briefing webcast. The candidate was somber, but even in a 15-minute broadcast he had a few technical issues and slip-ups (at one point, he forgot the camera was fixed and walked right out of the shot). The webcast time, 10:30 a.m., was actually an hour earlier than Biden had announced, so that didn’t help, either.
“The problem is Joe Biden doesn’t have a bully pulpit,” George Arzt, a veteran Democratic consultant, told Politico.
It gets worse. Biden is now trying to connect with voters “one Zoom call at a time,” the Associated Press reported Thursday. “He’s launched an email newsletter and began holding Zoom calls this week with individual supporters in what his campaign is calling a ‘virtual ropeline,'” the AP said.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
But there’s a drawback to being on TV for two hours every day — and an advantage to fading into the background as Biden has been forced to do.
Trump has been blasted for getting some things wrong in his briefings. For instance, he emphatically stated that he hoped to have the U.S. economy re-opened by Easter. A key projection, though, shows that Sunday will be the peak day for the virus. Some states, like Virginia, are calling for lockdowns into June.
The president is also on record saying March 6 that “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. We — they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” A month later, many people who suspect they may have the virus still can’t get tested.
And on March 17, Trump said: “I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic … I’ve always viewed it as very serious.” But he didn’t. Early on, Feb. 28, Trump said at a campaign rally: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. … And this is their new hoax.”
Meanwhile, Biden has said little — and what he has said has garnered little news coverage.
That could turn out to be a blessing. There were few politicians who knew for sure that the virus that originated Dec. 1 in Wuhan, China, would devastate the United States, but only Trump is on record as saying so. The reason: No one bothered to asked Biden what he thought (at that time, he was just another candidate running for the Democratic presidential nomination).
Biden has been slow off the mark, too — but you can bet the mainstream media will let that slide.
On March 27, Biden said during an interview on CNN that “the cost of the test should be absolutely zero for you.” But on March 18, Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided free coronavirus testing, The Daily Wire reported in a story headlined, “7 Things Biden Called For That Trump Already Did To Combat Coronavirus.”
On April 3, Biden’s campaign told CNN that he backed Trump’s China travel ban. That was nearly five weeks after Trump enacted a travel ban on China.
Trump’s words may come back to bite him, but for Biden, he can’t get in trouble for things he never said.
THE COMING PARTISAN PROBES
There is, of course, one more aspect of the coronavirus that could both help and hurt Trump and Biden: the impending partisan probes to be conducted by congressional Democrats — likely in the weeks just before the 2020 presidential election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced last week that she is setting up a select House committee to “assure that the taxpayer dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent” — but the California Democrat also said she wants to “examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus.”
That means another open-ended investigation into — everything. And she’ll have subpoena power (of course).
Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who led the failed impeachment process, on Friday proposed the establishment of a bipartisan commission — also with subpoena power — to investigate the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.  Schiff, another California Democrat, wants to set up a “9/11-style commission” of 10 lawmakers to review the administration’s actions and probe the government’s preparedness in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That means Democratic lawmakers want to call federal health officials off the front lines and into the House chambers to answer a bunch of biased questions, including “What did Trump know and when did he know it?” And it’ll mean top Trump administration officials will also be called to testify, their every word scrutinized as Democrats try to pin the blame on Trump.
The partisan probes could well hurt Trump, but it will be ever more clear that Biden wasn’t even on the bench, hoping to get into the game. He was sitting in his home in Delaware, shaking his fist at the TV (and maybe eating a bowl of soup). His absence from all the real decision-making that went on in the face of the pandemic will be glaring. There will also be endless speculation as to how Biden, who often seems a bit out of it, would have handled the crisis.
And there’s one more thing: Trump has dodged every bullet partisan Democrats have fired at him. In those coming hearings, Trump might just emerge the winner, with Americans (some grudgingly) acknowledging that he made the right moves at the right times.
He’s done it before, he could well do it again.

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