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Virus fiasco gives Biden an edge over Trump

Democrat ahead in the marginal states Trump has to hold, writes Ben Riley-Smith in Washington


Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump in the battleground states that will most likely decide the US election, giving him an early advantage in a campaign upended by the coronavirus crisis.

With exactly six months to go before the vote, Biden is polling ahead in five of the six states which the US president won by the narrowest margins in the 2016 election.

Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona are all leaning towards Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. North Carolina is leaning to Trump. If the states vote along those lines on November 3, Trump will almost certainly be defeated.

But the leads are slim, and those enjoyed by Hillary Clinton last time round turned to dust on election day itself.

This is the backdrop for the campaign to come, one unlike any in modern US history - defined by a pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of Americans, and tanked the economy.

Coronavirus has put question marks next to the certainties of past cycles, like packed stadiums cheering candidates at summer conventions, live audiences for presidential debates or even the viability of in-person voting. So too has it transformed the political ground the election is being fought on.

Trump, who has been broadcasting his re-election message for three years, appears worst hit. At the heart of his campaign had been the booming US economy, with its record high job numbers and soaring stock market valuations which had put more cash in voters' pockets. Now 30m Americans have claimed unemployment benefit in the last six weeks, and a recession is inevitable, robbing him of the ace in his re-election hand.

The second plank of his bid had been domestic and foreign policy "wins", touted under the banner of "promises made, promises kept", used to show Trump had kept his word. They included scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, delivering a major tax cut, appointing conservative judges, and tightening immigration.

But those feats - whether considered wise or not - pale in comparison to the magnitude of the pandemic, which dominates the political landscape.

Democratic strategists argue that coronavirus has exposed Trump's failings as a leader, and will sway critical swing voters away from him come November.

"I would have to say this is the defining crisis of the Trump presidency, and he has utterly failed to rise to the occasion," said Will Marshall, one of Bill Clinton's former advisers.

He said the daily White House coronavirus briefings - now scrapped after widespread ridicule over Trump promoting the possible benefits of injecting disinfectant - have damaged the president's chances of re-election.

Polls have Biden leading Trump on virus issues. But on the economy the president is still ahead.

Marshall thinks that will change.

"In the context of the double-digit unemployment, and lots of business shutting for good, especially small ones, I think it is going to be hard for Trump to hold on to that advantage, to put it mildly," he said.

There are signs Trump is feeling the pressure. Numerous US media outlets reported snippets of heated recent conversations between him and his 6ft 8in bearded campaign manager, Brad Parscale, over the latest polls. "I am not f**king losing to Joe Biden," Trump fumed in repeated conference calls, showing disbelief at trailing someone he considers a weak candidate, according to Associated Press reporters.

Trump waved away reports of tensions with Parscale. "He is doing a great job, I never shouted at him," the president tweeted. Parscale similarly said his boss "didn't yell at me".

Some Republicans remain upbeat. Throughout Trump's many controversies in office, not least becoming only the third US president in history to be impeached, consistently around 40pc of Americans have said they approve of the job he is doing.

George Holding, the Republican congressman from North Carolina - one of the swing states Trump is hoping to hold - is among those predicting the president will win in November.

"It is a challenge," he said of the post-coronavirus political environment. "But I don't think there's anyone out there who blames the president of the US for the coronavirus."

Trump has been a proponent of lifting lockdown measures to get the economy moving again, lending implicit support to gun-toting protesters demanding such action.

And if the green shoots of the economy are apparent in the weeks leading up to November, perhaps he will get the credit.

"I think next year, we're going to have a phenomenal year, economically," he said last Thursday, exuding optimism. It may be too late.

© Telegraph


Biden backs US women footballers in court row

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden yesterday voiced his support for the US women's football team - a day after it suffered a setback in its gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation.

The team's claims for equal pay were dismissed by a court on Friday, handing a victory to the administrative body, US Soccer.

"Don't give up this fight. This is not over yet," Biden wrote in a tweet to the team.

Then turning to the federation, Biden tweeted: "Equal pay, now. Or else when I'm president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding."

The World Cup-winning team's long-running feud with US Soccer has been a very public and bitter battle - and the players had been seeking $66m in damages under America's Equal Pay Act.

However, in its summary judgment, the court said: "The women's national team has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the men's national team over the period." The court allowed complaints of unfair medical, travel and training to proceed to trial.