SANFORD, Fla. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump returned to the Florida election campaign on Monday for the first time since announcing his diagnosis of COVID-19, appearing at an outdoor rally without a face mask and touting his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump threw masks at the crowd as he walked into the Sanford airport rally and spoke on several occasions about his recovery from COVID-19.
“I’ve been through it now. They say I’m immune. I feel so powerful, ”Trump told thousands of supporters standing side by side, most of them without face shields. “I will kiss guys and beautiful women. I’ll just give you a big kiss.
Trump’s return to his iconic campaign rallies kicked off a three-week sprint before Election Day, as new polls showed him he was losing more ground to Democratic rival Joe Biden in two field states. battle that could decide the November 3 contest.
The rally, the first of four scheduled for this week, showed that Trump had not reshaped his campaign approach since contracting the virus. “If you want to go out, go out,” he told the crowd.
Critics criticized Trump for failing to encourage supporters at campaign events, and even White House staff, to wear protective masks and comply with social distancing guidelines.
At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 7.8 million people in the United States, killed more than 214,000 and put millions out of work.
The rally came hours after the White House said Trump had tested negative for COVID-19 on consecutive days and was not contagious to others. These were the president’s first negative COVID-19 tests announced by the White House since Trump said on October 2 that he had contracted the virus.
In a memo, Dr Sean Conley did not specify when the tests were performed, but that they and other clinical and laboratory data “indicate a lack of detectable viral replication.”
Biden also tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, his campaign said in a statement. The former vice president has tested negative several times since Trump announced his test positive.
“PERSONAL DRIVING WITHOUT RECKLESS”
Trump, 74, is seeking to change the dynamics of a race that national opinion polls and some state polls show he is losing to Biden, who is 77. The president has worked hard for months to divert public attention from the virus and its handling. of the pandemic.
But Trump’s own illness has shed light on his response to the coronavirus during the home stretch of the race, with Biden stepping up his attacks and reaching normally Republican states.
On Monday, Biden made two campaign appearances in Ohio, where he was once considered a long range player, but polls now show a close run. Speaking in Cincinnati, he criticized Trump for downplaying the coronavirus threat and scoffed at the president’s statements that he did not want to panic Americans about the threat.
“Trump is the one who panicked. His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis is also unacceptable. And the more President Donald Trump is, the more reckless he becomes, ”Biden said.
At a previous event in Toledo, Biden told union auto workers that he and former President Barack Obama played a key role in keeping America’s auto industry afloat during the financial crisis and the recession over ten years ago.
It was Biden’s second campaign trip in as many weeks to Ohio. Trump won the state by 8 percentage points four years ago and almost certainly has to take it back to be reelected. No Republican has won the White House without wearing the Ohio.
Biden has taken the lead in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, building momentum in two states Trump won in the 2016 presidential election, Reuters / Ipsos opinion polls showed on Monday.
Polls, conducted Tuesday through Sunday, showed Biden now leading Trump by 7 percentage points in both states.
The most recent polls in Florida, where a loss of Trump would dramatically narrow his path to re-election, showed Biden a small lead and a head start over the state’s major demographics, especially the elderly. Trump won Florida in 2016 with just 1.2 percentage points.