Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a press conference after meeting with public health experts on a Covid-19 vaccine in Wilmington, Delaware on September 16, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Armed with a record-setting August campaign fundraising haul of $364.5 million, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is hammering President Donald Trump this week both on the airwaves and on the campaign trail over health care.
On Wednesday morning, the Biden campaign announced it will spend $65 million this week alone on ads across TV, radio and digital. It also unveiled four new ads focused on Obamacare and the pandemic.
Later in the day, Biden delivered a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, where he lambasted Trump over his handling of the pandemic, specifically Trump’s insistence that a coronavirus vaccine will be finalized before the Nov. 3 election.
“The American people right now don’t trust what the president says about things related to science,” said Biden, because of Trump’s “incompetence and dishonesty when it came to testing and personal protective equipment” in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. “We cannot afford a repeat of those fiascos when it comes to a vaccine.”
In order to shore up public trust in a government vaccine, said Biden, its rollout will need to be accompanied by “total transparency” about the research process and a review by an independent panel of scientists.
“So let me be clear, I trust vaccines. I trust the scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump — and the American people can’t either.”
Public polling shows that most Americans don’t trust what Trump says about a vaccine.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that more than 60% of registered voters are worried that political pressure from the White House will “lead the FDA to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective.” Several large surveys report similar levels of concern.
A question of trust
A major factor contributing to public distrust is the difference between what Trump says about a vaccine, and what the Trump administration’s top health experts say about one.
Speaking about coronavirus vaccine development at an ABC News town hall on Tuesday night, Trump said, “We’re within weeks of getting it. You know, could be three weeks, four weeks, but we think we have it.”
But on Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate panel that while he believes there will be a vaccine “available sometime between November and December” for first responders and health care workers, he does not envision widespread availability of a coronavirus vaccine until spring or summer of next year.
Director of Center for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield speaks at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing “Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts” on Capitol Hill, Washington, U.S., September 16, 2020.
Andrew Harnick | Reuters
Trump later accused Redfield of having been “confused” during his testimony.
This disconnect between Trump and his health experts has presented a fertile opportunity for Biden, who seized on Trump’s remarks at the town hall to accuse the president of having failed to protect the nation.
“All President Trump had to offer last night was the same weak and feckless inaction — the same lies and empty promises — that we’ve seen from the very beginning. He still won’t accept responsibility. He still won’t offer a plan,” said Biden.
“A president’s first responsibility is to protect the American people. And he won’t.That is utterly disqualifying.”
But while the Democrat was busy attacking Trump from the lectern in Wilmington, his campaign was launching a different attack on the same broad theme of health care.
The other health care message
One of the things that raising $364.5 million in one month means for a presidential campaign is that it can afford to broaden its message across the airwaves and spend resources trying to reach voters who might not be following the race especially closely.
For most presidential campaigns, the final weeks of the race would be spent mobilizing their supporters to get out and vote. But the truncated 2020 campaign timeline, and Biden’s avalanche of cash, mean the Biden camp can afford to go on offense against Trump right up until Election Day.
This is the thinking behind new ads the Biden campaign announced on Wednesday morning, along with an enormous ad budget this week: $65 million. The Biden campaign has paid ads up in 10 key battlegrounds: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Nebraska, and Minnesota.
Notably, only two of the 10 states, Minnesota and Nevada, were won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Defending two states while going after eight states won by your opponent is practically the definition of an offensive campaign map.
The four new ads released Wednesday all focus on health care, with the two longest ads focused on the Trump administration’s effort to dismantle Obamacare.
“If Donald Trump gets rid of our health care law, my son won’t be protected,” says the mother of a sick child in one of the ads. “We would have to making some tough decisions about what medications we can afford. We need a president who will protect our health care and that’s Joe Biden.”
To put the Biden ad spending in perspective, last week the Biden campaign spent $31.1 million on TV and radio ads. The Trump campaign spent $9.2 million on TV and radio ads in the same week, according to NBC News.
Earlier this week, the Trump campaign announced it was increasing its TV advertising by 50%, which would mean spending about $14 million.
At this rate, Biden’s $65 million of ads this week will exceed the Trump campaign’s ad spending by a 4-1 margin.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the disparity between the two campaigns’ weekly advertising budgets.
Watch Biden’s new health care ad below.