(C) Reuters. Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a primary night speech in Philadelphia
By Trevor Hunnicutt
WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden will deliver a speech on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, 16 hours after the man he hopes to beat in November’s election, Republican President Donald Trump, addressed the nation from the White House.
The former vice president’s speech will give Biden, who has criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus, a chance to portray himself as a steady, experienced hand in the face of a public health crisis.
“Today’s speech will be presidential, not political,” a Biden adviser said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the upcoming remarks. “It will be clear-eyed about the challenges we face and offer thoughtful ideas on the path forward. It will offer a view into how Biden will lead in times of crisis as president.”
Biden, who has taken control of the two-way nominating battle between him and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont after winning at least four of six states on Tuesday, will speak in his home state of Delaware.
Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel to the United States from Europe on Wednesday and promised economic stimulus measures, vowing to contain the pandemic.
But already battered global financial markets plunged again on Thursday. U.S. stock indexes were down up to 7.4% in morning trading as the benchmark S&P 500 (SPX) and the Nasdaq (IXIC) indexes cratered into a bear market.
The outbreak continued to reshape the contours of the presidential campaign. Democratic officials announced on Thursday that Sunday’s televised debate between Biden and Sanders would be moved from Arizona to CNN’s studio in Washington, D.C.
Officials had already decided not to allow a live audience inside the debate hall, citing contagion concerns.
Meanwhile, Biden, Sanders and Trump have all canceled campaign events in recent days after warnings from public health officials about holding large-scale gatherings.
Trump, who called off planned events in Nevada and Colorado this week, told reporters on Thursday he was also considering nixing plans for a rally in Tampa, Florida, on March 25.
“I think we’ll probably not do it because people would say it’s better to not do,” he said at the White House.
Biden’s campaign on Wednesday converted planned rallies in Florida and Illinois into “virtual” campaign events as the coronavirus outbreak officially became a global pandemic.
The Biden campaign created a committee composed mostly of doctors to advise on how to keep the candidate, staff and voters safe. Sanders’ campaign has said it will address plans on a day-to-day basis.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is a highly contagious respiratory illness. The number of U.S. coronavirus cases has risen steadily to 1,311, with 38 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Sanders, a democratic socialist, said on Wednesday he would stay in the race despite his primary losses to Biden and would keep pushing for his economic and social justice agenda.
Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio hold nominating contests on Tuesday.
Despite his recent losses, Sanders said his anti-corporate economic agenda was gaining support from young people, who he called the future of the country. But he acknowledged that many Democratic voters still believe Biden has the best chance of beating Trump, 73.
“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” he told reporters on Wednesday in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont.
Sanders’ losses on Tuesday, coming after a series of Biden wins in last week’s Super Tuesday contests, put him in a deeper hole in the delegate count. Biden leads Sanders 786-645 in the race for the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination at July’s Democratic convention.
Democrat Biden aims to underline contrast with Trump in coronavirus speech