Biden pivots focus to Trump amid coronavirus concerns

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the press at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the press at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WILMINGTON, Del. – Joe Biden blasted President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday and outlined how he would combat the threat differently by relying more heavily on global alliances and listening more closely to the recommendations of scientists.

“This administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face,” Biden said from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

The new coronavirus has upended the presidential campaign at a crucial moment. Just as Biden is beginning to pull away with the delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination, in-person campaign activities are virtually ground to a halt. And many Americans who would otherwise be tuned into politics are instead preparing for what might happen if they become infected or asked to remain home for weeks at a time.

As financial markets spiraled, Biden sought to look past the turbulent Democratic primary and portray himself as a soothing counter to the chaos of the Trump era. Standing before a bank of American flags, he mixed indictments of Trump with his own policy proposals and the kind of national cheerleading and encouragement that he sees as critical aspects of the presidency.

“No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks, but I can promise you this: When I’m president we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better,” Biden declared. “We will lead with science, listen to the experts, will heed their advice. We’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world to meet the global threats that we are likely to face again.”

Biden touted “the ingenuity of our scientists and the resourcefulness of our people,” and he hailed the nation’s “decency” and “spirit.” But he coldly exempted Trump from such praise: “I’ll always tell you the truth,” Biden said. “This is the responsibility of a president. That’s what is owed the American people."

But Biden faces limits in presenting himself as Trump's alternative. The former vice president hasn't yet won the Democratic nomination. After Biden's plans were announced, his top Democratic rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, also scheduled remarks.

“If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we were all in this together, this is the moment,” Sanders said in Burlington, Vermont, as he said the current White House was characterized by “incompetence and recklessness” that threatens “the lives of many, many people."