Coronavirus and the campaign: The candidates’ messaging

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 8:00 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As we enter the last few months of the presidential campaign, both candidates are facing the challenge of courting voters in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s a major part of President Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s messaging. We talked to both of their campaign teams about it.

“[President Trump] is doing an exceptional job leading through the crisis,” said Erin Perrine, the Director of Press Communications for the Trump campaign.

“We are putting forward bold, clear visions for how we make progress on those issues,” said TJ Ducklo, the National Press Secretary for the Biden campaign. “How we pick this country up out of this pandemic.”

Perrine and Ducklo are praising their candidate’s response and attacking their opponents'.

“I see no strength whatsoever in the Biden campaign or candidate himself,” Perrine said.

“Donald Trump has...failed the American people,” Ducklo said.

Coronavirus is the variable the campaigns weren’t expecting this election year. For months, they have worked to shape how voters see their candidate on this issue. And now, the polls are showing us how Americans are responding to their messaging.

Cameron Easley is the political polling editor at Morning Consult. The company polls 5,000 likely voters each day.

“It’s kind of put a problem at the president’s doorstep,” Easley said. “And it’s given his challenger an excuse to sit back and not do so much.”

Several recent polls show more than 70% of voters are worried about the pandemic.

Easley said that means the focus has shifted from some of the president’s key issues, like immigration, toward health care -- the issue Democrats built their campaign around.

“It’s been a particularly tough few months for the president,” Easley said. “We’re now seeing him kind of change his tac with how he’s messaging on the coronavirus.”

And the message matters, as voters weigh which candidate they want to lead the nation.

The latest Morning Consult poll shows Biden ahead by eight percentage points.

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