Biden aims to broaden map as Trump recovers from coronavirus

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MIAMI – As US President Donald Trump recovers from the coronavirus, Joe Biden is capitalizing on having the electoral trail largely to himself by hitting critical states and investing in long-standing Republican strongholds that, he hopes, could widen his path to victory. The Democratic presidential candidate made his second trip to Florida in just over two weeks on Monday. His visit to Miami was designed to encroach on part of Trump’s territory, even passing through Little Havana, a distinctly conservative area known for its staunch opposition to the Communist government that Fidel Castro installed in Cuba.

He will follow up with a trip later this week to Arizona, which has not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. Even Biden’s former main rival, Bernie Sanders, has resumed his campaign in person for the first time since. the coronavirus epidemic in March. The progressive senator from Vermont staged socially distant rallies on the battlefields of New Hampshire and Michigan, proclaiming, “We need Joe Biden as president.”

Sitting on a huge pile of campaign money less than a month before Election Day, Biden tries to put Trump on the defense across the country and create an Electoral College advantage so large the president could struggle to challenge it. This is all the more important given that Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016, has said he may not accept election results this year and has raised unsubstantiated claims that the use Increased postal voting amid the coronavirus pandemic could lead to fraud.

Biden complements the campaign’s expanded journey with an advanced advertising campaign, reserving more than $ 6 million in Texas TV airtime – for decades deeply red – through the end of October, according to an analysis ‘Associated Press of CMAG data. He also plans to spend $ 4 million on advertising in Georgia, another Republican-leaning state that Democrats feel optimistic about.

Trump, meanwhile, cut advertising in both states and started doing the same in Ohio, which he also won in 2016.

“2020 is not 2016. The ‘Routed Democrats’ worrying that we are going to go too far is not the reality this time around,” said Kelly Dietrich, founder of the National Committee of Democratic training, which has worked with around 1,500 of the party’s candidates for office nationwide this cycle. “They are leading a strong race centered on the swing states we need to win but now have excess resources to expand the map. ”

As Election Day approaches, Democrats are still stung by the 2016 campaign, when Hillary Clinton focused on Republican-prone states like North Carolina and Arizona in recent weeks, only to lose some those who have long supported Democrats, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said, “It would be a mistake for Biden to take his foot off the pedal,” but added, “I wouldn’t want Biden to make the same mistake Clinton did. ”

“I’d be careful, if I was Biden, to stretch the map too far,” Bannon said.

Biden advisers say they have been confident for months that they can expand the electoral map without ever giving up on their promise to have their candidate travel only when local health guidelines allow. Joining this plan has allowed them to expand to other parts of the country at critical times.

Speaking in Little Havana on Monday, Biden was careful to continue wishing Trump a speedy recovery, but also criticized his administration’s response to the pandemic.

“I was happy to see the president speaking and recording videos this weekend,” Biden said. “Now that he’s busy tweeting campaign messages, I encourage him to do this: listen to the scientists. ”

Biden also turned away from his usual campaign speech on rebuilding the economy after the pandemic to add, “The wealth and beauty of Miami is built with the bonds of family, culture and values ​​that we share with our friends in the Caribbean and Latin America. ”

Trump left the hospital on Monday evening. While it’s not clear when he’ll be good enough for a full travel schedule, he’s already thinking about it.

“Will be back on the country trail soon !!! The president tweeted.

Biden’s advisers say they never considered stepping back his campaign even while the president was hospitalized, especially with Vice President Mike Pence taking on a larger role, including in Wednesday’s debate with the Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“The Trump campaign continues to run its presidential campaign, and we will continue to run our presidential campaign,” said Anita Dunn, senior Biden campaign strategist. “Obviously, both campaigns continue to move forward. ”

Still, Biden faces lingering questions about whether he has been exposed to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends quarantine for two weeks after a person’s exposure to the virus. Biden shared a scene with the president for 90 minutes during the first presidential debate last week.

Biden says he has since been tested three times, all with negative results. His campaign promised he would be tested regularly and pledged to release all the results, but declined to say whether quarantine was considered after the debate and did not say how often Biden would be tested. .

Speaking to an MSNBC town hall later Monday evening, Biden said presidents should be transparent about their health, although he can also understand that in certain national security circumstances where every detail would not be made. available in the midst of a particular crisis. . ”

But Biden said withholding such information was infrequent and for short periods of time, saying it should only be done “at the margins and only for now.”

Since the president tested positive for the virus, Biden’s campaign has been even more disciplined to downplay his candidate’s risk. The former vice president has started to keep his face mask on even when giving speeches. And when he stopped to answer questions before boarding his plane to Miami, Biden’s wife Jill physically pulled him back to keep him from getting too close to reporters, despite everything. everyone wears masks.

“We are not going to put people’s health at risk for a political campaign,” said Dunn, “but we are going to campaign as vigorously as possible. ”

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Weissert reported from Washington.

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