With Trump at Walter Reed, the Biden campaign walks a delicate line

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Joe Biden’s campaign announced that they would pull all negative ads on Friday following President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. The move highlights the delicate line Biden’s team will now have to toe with just one month until the presidential election: paying respect to a President ill with a potentially-fatal illness and running an end-game campaign. 

Biden told reporters Friday that he had tested negative for the virus twice and would continue campaigning as he had. He offered his prayers to the Trump family and urged all Americans to wear masks. At a socially-distanced outdoor event in Michigan, Biden told supporters that “this is not a matter of politics. It’s a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously. It’s not going away automatically. We have to do our part to be responsible.”

Still, Biden did cancel the second part of his planned campaign stop in the the Great Lakes state, “based on the crowd size and an indoor—it was concluded by the docs that best not to do it,” he told reporters. 

The President, meanwhile, said he would suspend all campaign events indefinitely. The President left the White House Friday afternoon, walking to the Marine One helicopter and briefly waving to the press, to check-in to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for monitoring and to receive an experimental antibody treatment. A presidential candidate has never been hospitalized indefinitely at the end of a campaign, and both Trump and Biden are grappling with an unprecedented situation. 

Biden’s team said the decision to go positive was made before the President announced he would stay at Walter Reed, and the Trump campaign said that they will not play by the same rules and will continue to run negative ads. 

The regrouping also comes as the Biden team has moved their campaign from what was largely a front-porch, digital effort to a traveling operation. Biden, his wife Jill, and Kamala Harris have begun traveling to key battleground states, hosting socially-distanced, masked events with limited attendance. The President, by contrast, bragged about holding large, crowded rallies with supporters foregoing masks ahead of his diagnosis. Biden’s campaign said Friday that they wouldn’t change their strategy and that the events they were hosting were well planned and safe. 

Jill Biden campaigned in New Hampshire on Friday and will travel to Minnesota on Saturday. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, will act as a surrogate for Biden at an event in New Hampshire Saturday. 

Trump in the past had mocked the Biden campaign for its adherence to safe practices, and Biden himself for the consistency in which he wore his mask. Biden did not mention any of those barbs on Friday. 

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