When asked about coronavirus deaths by a reporter at the roundtable, Trump replied: “Well, I hate it anywhere, but if you look at other countries, other countries are doing terribly.”
And in another example of either denial or a desire to deliberately mislead the American people, Trump said Florida is “doing really well,” even though the state now has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in all 50 states and reported record deaths for the fourth day on Friday.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner — a professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and former medical adviser to President George W. Bush — said when he saw Trump visiting with the crowd on an airport tarmac in Tampa, Florida, with no mask, his heart broke for the doctors and nurses at hospitals that “are flooded with people dying of this virus.”
“The President comes down to Florida without a mask? That’s like smoking a cigarette in a cancer ward. What a slap in the face,” Reiner said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” Friday night. “Either he doesn’t get it or he refuses to tell the public the truth.”
On top of that attempt to define Biden, Trump and his advisers this week continued building their smokescreen that the November election will be tainted by voter fraud as a way to delegitimize results.
But as Trump continues to sink in the polls, there is little evidence that his discordant message is landing.
Still, Trump keeps hammering that attack as he did in Tampa on Friday, suggesting at several points that Biden didn’t “know what he was talking about” when discussing police funding policy and “pretty soon” he won’t be able to read his own talking points. He described a “Biden and Bernie’s manifesto” that is “farther left” than Sanders’ policy positions, suggesting inaccurately that it would entail taking away the Second Amendment, opening the country’s borders and be marked by a failure to pursue violent criminals.
“In Joe Biden’s America, you and your family will never be safe,” Trump said, all while flaunting the safety guidelines of his own administration and putting lives at risk in a state where the virus is running rampant. “No one to protect you and no one to defend the American way of life.”
CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Donald Judd reported Friday evening that the Trump campaign will resume ad spending on Monday after temporarily pulling the ads to allow Trump’s new campaign manager Bill Stepien to review how much the campaign was spending and which voters they were targeting with their message, with an eye toward redirecting ad money toward voters who will cast ballots before Election Day.
Trump’s statements in Florida didn’t seem to break new ground and it’s unclear if they were meant to be a preview of a shift in messaging. The campaign itself didn’t preview a major shift when discussing a new ad coming on Monday.
A senior campaign official said the new ad “will once again show that Joe Biden is a creature of the Washington establishment with little to show for his time, aside from becoming a tool for the radical, extreme left.”
A smokescreen on voter fraud
Trump’s most consistent message has been his effort to create distrust around the results of the November election, a telltale sign that he is grappling with the very real possibility that he will lose reelection.
“I think we’ve had elections every November since about 1788, and I expect that will be the case again this year,” said Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s tweet an effort to create confusion, and criticized him for trying to suppress the vote with his allegations about potential voter fraud.
“He said something he knows he doesn’t have the authority to do — or the people around him certainly should — but it’s about diversion and it’s a tactic,” Pelosi told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “Newsroom” Friday.
“The reason he does it is because the more people hear something like that, the more they’re discouraged to vote. ‘Why should I vote because it’s going to all be confused? They may not count my vote the way I cast it.’ So, it’s a way to suppress the vote.”
During Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the White House is focused on making sure “our election is not riddled with voting fraud and that the timetable is not hung up here.” But she refused to answer questions about why the administration isn’t doing more to provide funding to states to pay for staff and resources to ensure the election is safe and secure.
“States run their elections,” she said when pressed by a reporter on the topic, “and it is up to states to make sure that they have the capacity. … States need to get their acts together when it comes to elections.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican Cabinet secretary under President George W. Bush, argued that discouraging mail-in voting is “very perilous for the Republican Party” and puts Trump’s party at “an incredible disadvantage.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Saturday.