High-visibility Trump crisis management eclipses Biden

Former VP installs 'new high-speed line' to repurpose home rec room as TV studio to raise leadership profile

Image
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Friday, March 20, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
President Trump, Vice President Pence, coronavirus task force members at White House press briefing, March 20
(Shealah Craighead/White House Photo)
Last Updated:
March 24, 2020 - 11:39am

Likely general election opponents President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday continued their vastly contrasting approaches to combatting the coronavirus outbreak, with Trump playing a much more visible role than his Democratic opponent, both online and on the airwaves.

Trump has dominated news coverage, seen out front and center for multiple days in sometimes hours-long, live press briefings, taking reporters’ questions while flanked by medical and disaster relief experts on national television. 

The Trump administration has taken aggressive action to restrict travel and other social interactions to minimize the virus’s spread. The president’s poll numbers have risen among Americans for his handling of the coronavirus crisis over the past two weeks, according to two separate polls by Axios-Harris and ABC-Ipsos.

Until a brief, roughly 14-minute video broadcast alone today from his home in Wilmington, Del., Biden hadn’t spoken formally on camera since Tuesday evening following primary victories over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in three states. At press time Monday, Biden’s Twitter video had under 310,000 views and his Facebook video had less than 215,000 views. President Trump’s recent coronavirus-related social media videos have many multiples above Biden’s in viewership. This is hardly surprising, given Trump’s larger presence with 28.3 million Facebook followers, compared to Biden’s nearly 1.7 million, Trump’s 74.8 million Twitter followers to Biden’s 4.5 million, and Trump’s 18.4 million Instagram followers vs. Biden’s 1.6 million.

“What I’m concerned about is that we see Donald Trump every day with this crisis giving his press report,” a donor told Biden on a virtual fundraising call on Sunday, according to multiple news reports. “And I would just love to see you more.”

Biden told supporters that he had installed a “new high-speed line” in his home so he could convert a recreation room into a television studio for home broadcast as part of social distancing procedures advised by government authorities.

During his remarks Monday, Biden praised governors from both parties responding to the coronavirus crisis, however, he slipped and misspoke, referring to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts as "Charlie Parker.”

Biden praised the coronavirus response by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of Calif., and said “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings are a lesson in leadership.” However, Biden didn’t mention that the trio of Trump, Newsom and Cuomo have all reported they are working together with a newfound sense of mutual respect. 

“I hope we hear less talk and see more evidence of fast action,” Biden said in his home broadcast slamming Trump. “My point is not simply that the president was wrong. My point is that the mindset, that was slow to recognize the problem in the first place to treat it with a seriousness is deserved, is still too much a part of how the president is addressing the problem. South Korea detected their first case of coronavirus on the same day we did, but they had tests and sophisticated tracing programs to stop the spread of the virus, so they didn’t have to put the entire country on lockdown. We had none of that. So we’re left with only one, the only extreme social distancing measures currently in place.”

Biden urged his viewers to check out his “very detailed, in-depth plan, what I think we should be doing,” on his website. The Biden plan makes no mention of a specific response to China, a nation which economic observers blame in part for the supply chain failure leading to medical shortages needed to respond to coronavirus. 

The Trump campaign has been aggressive in pushing back on Biden, using the hashtag #WhereIsJoe and #WhereIsJoeBiden and tongue-in-cheekily suggesting that Biden is plagiarizing Trump’s coronavirus response.

“The only thing Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that the Obama White House had to apologize for his remarks that set off a panic during the swine flu outbreak in 2009,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in a press statement. 

“And when President Trump took the critical step of restricting travel from China in response to the coronavirus,” the statement continued, “Biden called it ‘xenophobic.’ Most of what Biden says the government should do are things President Trump is already doing. The President is leading an unprecedented mobilization of America against the coronavirus and all Joe Biden can offer is ineffective partisan sniping from the sidelines.”