The plans for the two men to meet face-to-face at a town hall where they would take questions from voters evaporated after Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, amid fears that he could have exposed Biden and others to the virus during the chaotic first debate. The Commission on Presidential Debates proposed a virtual debate, but Trump refused — leading Biden to make his own plans with ABC for a solo town hall. Trump’s campaign then arranged for the President to do his own town hall with NBC during the same hour.
Trump, who resumed campaign events in recent days, has traveled the country falsely suggesting that he emerged “immune” from his serious bout with the virus, continuing the same reckless tactics that marked his campaign before his diagnosis. The President has regularly gathered huge groups of supporters at his rallies where few wear masks, and plans to do more as the election nears.
Trump claimed on Thursday that the US is “doing fine” as new cases surge and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects up to 240,000 coronavirus deaths by the first week of November, shortly after Election Day.
As Trump has refused to change course — even though the poor marks for his handling of the pandemic are creating a huge drag on his reelection chances, particularly with women — there have been ominous signs that another wave of the coronavirus is hitting the US as deaths top 217,000 and cases near 8 million.
Biden hopes to show his trademark empathy on Thursday as he speaks with voters about how the medical and economic toll of Covid-19 has harmed their families. Trump has had difficulty in these settings, often falling into a defensive posture as he touts what he views as heroic efforts to stop the spread of the virus and fuel an economic recovery.
Both candidates are likely to field questions about the stalled coronavirus relief package, which is needed to support the wounded economy and millions of Americans deprived of federal unemployment benefits as the pandemic gathers speed.
After shutting down negotiations, Trump reversed himself during his convalescence from Covid-19 and now says he wants an even bigger package than the Democrats, who have a $2.2 trillion proposal.
The President, who styles himself as an unparalleled deal maker, complained Thursday that his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had not yet brought home the “bacon” after tortuous negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Trump also accused the speaker of having “mental problems.” Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dug in, saying he wouldn’t bring any big package to the floor owing to opposition from a group of GOP senators. That probably means there is no chance of any deal before Election Day.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.