Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Sunday did not call...

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Sunday did not call on rival Sen. Bernie Sanders to exit the race.  Credit: AP

The leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday balanced pandemic concerns with politics, criticizing President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis while appealing for more help for those impacted by the deadly scourge sweeping across America.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” former Vice President Joe Biden said he would have pushed for more testing kits, hospital beds and protective equipment to combat the virus if he had been in the White House, compared to the Trump administration response so far. 

“I’d be moving more rapidly,” said Biden, decrying the lack of sufficient supplies in places such as New York hospitals, where he said there have been scenes of nurses “wearing garbage bags” for protection because proper equipment wasn’t available. “We have to be ahead of the curve, not behind” in fighting the rapidly escalating spread of the virus, Biden said.

Politically, Biden said Trump’s recent rise in public opinion polls was “a typical American response” to the ongoing national emergency, similar to the way Americans rallied during other crises faced by past U.S. presidents. Biden said more effort is needed to rely on mailed-in ballots for this November’s general election, especially if health concerns about spreading the deadly virus continue.

But Biden remained careful not to push his remaining rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, to leave the campaign, despite being roundly beaten by Biden in several primaries and given little chance of catching up in the delegate count. Biden said that Sanders has “poured his heart and soul” into this campaign but that it was “up to Bernie” whether or not to leave the race.

The impact of the virus has clearly affected presidential politics and Biden’s front-runner status. On Sunday, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that Trump is gaining ground on Biden, with the incumbent only 2 percentage points behind his Democratic rival, a statistically dead-heat given the sampling’s margin of error.

Though the poll indicated Biden still leads Trump, 49 percent to 47 percent, it showed that Biden lacks strong enthusiasm among Democratic voters while Trump’s camp remains highly enthusiastic. This national poll of 1,003 adults also found that 15 percent of Sanders supporters favored Trump over Biden in the fall. 

Earlier this month, Biden built a commanding lead over Sanders after several impressive primary victories. Since the virus took over the national stage, Sanders’ campaign has directed more of its attention on health-related issues rather than criticisms of Biden. On Sunday, Sanders was originally scheduled to appear on CNN but didn’t, with presidential politics giving way to interviews with health experts and state governors dealing with the pandemic. 

Because of the virus threat, the 77-year-old former vice president spoke during Sunday’s appearance from a makeshift television studio inside his Delaware home. 

Biden said he’s careful not to be a backseat driver while Trump is trying to manage this crisis, but added that he feels compelled to speak out about obvious problems, such as the lack of testing kits needed to determine who has the virus and how it is spreading around the country. 

“Look, the coronavirus is not the president’s fault, but the slow response, the failure to get going right away, the inability to do the things that needed to be done quickly, they are things that can’t continue,” Biden said.

The Democrats’ likely nominee also cast doubt on Trump’s claim that Americans may be able to leave their homes safely and return to normal by as soon as Easter Sunday in mid-April. 

“The American people have never shied away from being able to deal with the truth,” Biden said. “The worst thing you can do is raise false expectations and then watch them get dashed. Then they begin to lose confidence in their leadership. So we should just tell the truth as best we know it, as best as the scientists know it.” 


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