Coronavirus: Democratic White House hopeful targets President Trump on deadly virus response
Charleston (US), Feb 28: Democratic White House hopefuls are seizing on President Donald Trump's delayed response to the coronavirus outbreak, calling it the latest evidence of his incompetence and warning that the crisis may only deepen as a result.
But some experts and Democrats warn that the candidates risk exacerbating a public health crisis if they go too far in politicizing the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar all went after Trump during their CNN town halls Wednesday night.
A number of the candidates have released their own pandemic policies, and Bloomberg is even airing an ad contrasting Trump's response to the outbreak to his own handling of the aftermath of 9/11.
It's a potent political issue, as it gets at what Democrats see as two major potential weaknesses for Trump: questions about his competence as president and health care issues.
"The threat from coronavirus and the chaos of the administration is front and center in everyone's mind," said Jesse Ferguson, a longtime Democratic strategist and former spokesman for Hillary Clinton's campaign.
"Not talking about it means you're missing voters who are deeply worried about the public health threat and deeply concerned about the Trump administration's incompetence." Warren, Klobuchar and Bloomberg have all released public health plans detailing how they'd address and prevent similar outbreaks as president.
During their CNN town halls, Warren warned that the economic impact of the new coronavirus could get worse. She and Klobuchar slammed Trump's decision to put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response, noting his controversial handling of an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was governor.
Biden has previously slammed Trump for "hysterical xenophobia and fearmongering" rather than respecting science on the issue. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, another 2020 Democratic hopeful, issued a statement Thursday night calling for Trump to allow her state to buy COVID-19 testing kits from Japan.
She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was "failing to provide them." "As an island state, with responsible leadership, we can keep this virus out. But, we won't be able to do that without our state and federal leaders taking it much more seriously than they are right now," she said. But sounding the alarm on the administration's coronavirus response also holds risks.
On Wednesday, the president sought to minimize fears at a White House press conference where he insisted the US is "very, very ready" for an outbreak and predicted: "This will end... there's no reason to be panicked."