Contrasting virus responses of Trump-Biden

WILL WEISSERT and MARC LEVY
Joe Biden is presenting himself as a calming leader who will help the US from its current turmoil

A US presidential campaign largely frozen because of the coronavirus has taken on a degree of normalcy when Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden swung through battleground states presenting starkly different visions for a post-pandemic America.

Touring a shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, President Trump on Thursday insisted the economy is "coming back at a level nobody ever imagined possible".

But in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Biden warned that "no miracles are coming" and slammed Trump's handling of the virus.

"Amazingly, he hasn't grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: To fix the economy we have to get control over the virus," Biden said.

"He's like a child who can't believe this has happened to him. His whining and self-pity."

With just over four months remaining until the election, the contrasting styles of Trump and Biden are increasingly on display.

The president is itching to move past an outbreak that has dashed the economy and killed more than 125,000 people.

Biden, meanwhile, is seeking to present himself as a competent and calming leader ready to level with the nation about the hardships that may be required to emerge from the current turmoil.

Beyond knocking Trump's leadership, Biden spent much of Thursday defending the Obama administration's signature health care law and decrying what he said was a White House-led effort to dismantle it via a court challenge.

It was part of a larger Democratic effort to refocus the 2020 election on health care, an issue that helped the party retake the House last cycle and one it hopes will resonate with even more voters amid the pandemic.

Narrow 2016 victories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were vital in sending Trump to the White House. That he would build his travel around trying to do that again - and that Biden would respond with trips meant to flip the states back to Democratic - wouldn't usually be a surprise.

But the coronavirus has upended normal campaign travel since March.

After long campaigning virtually from his Delaware home, Biden has in recent weeks begun visiting Pennsylvania, allowing him to target a swing state without venturing far.

Trump, by contrast, staged a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last weekend and spoke at an Arizona megachurch on Tuesday.

On Thursday, he visited a rural Wisconsin shipyard and taped a town hall to be broadcast by Fox News Channel from an airport in Green Bay. Vice President Mike Pence also hit another key state, Ohio.

Biden's team has organised small events and enforced social distancing. Trump has refused to wear a mask in public, and his campaign says Biden is using a cautious approach to hide the fact that he can't draw large, enthusiastic crowds.

"I know, as Americans, it's not something we're used to. But it matters," Biden said of wearing a mask, noting he wears one "everywhere I go".

Polls in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania show Biden ahead, but nearly every poll had Trump trailing in 2016 before his base came together in the final weeks of the campaign.