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Politics Chat: A Look At Trump And Biden's Election Strategies Amid The Pandemic


It is a year and an election year like none other. More than 140,000 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus. The number of daily deaths continues to rapidly climb, so much so that the CDC is now projecting by August 8, there could be as many as 170,000 deaths. Millions of Americans are infected, and millions are out of work. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with us now.

Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Those are sobering numbers. It seems clear now that the president knows he cannot tell this triumphant story that he was hoping to tell on beating the pandemic or bringing about an economic recovery.

LIASSON: That's right. The president originally wanted to run on a kind of triumphant story about the great economy. Then he wanted to run on a COVID-going-away story or an economy-bouncing-back story. Right now, both of those are very hard, if not impossible, for him to do.

And this was the week that the polls really got worse for the president. Remember, polls are a snapshot, not a prediction. But two polls showed him with a - with Joe Biden with a double-digit lead over President Trump. And the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that people think the country is on the wrong track by 72%. That's very high. And it's never a good sign for an incumbent.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's talk about the Democratic nominee, Vice President Joe Biden. He has been rolling out his policies. In a TV interview today, the - President Trump took a shot at Vice President Biden's police reforms that he has proposed with Fox News's Chris Wallace refuting his claims. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And Biden wants to defund the police.

CHRIS WALLACE: Sir, he does not.

TRUMP: Look. He signed a charter with Bernie Sanders.

WALLACE: It says nothing about defunding the police.

TRUMP: Oh, really? It says abolish. It says - let's go.

WALLACE: All right. Well...

TRUMP: Get me the charter, please.

WALLACE: All right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, Biden's charter indeed does not say anything about defunding the police. So what does it say?

LIASSON: Joe Biden has been very clear that he opposes the defund the police movement, but he has said that some funding for police departments should be redirected to other services like counseling, mental health care. He has also said that police forces are too heavily armed with militarized equipment. He's talked about - he says, the last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into your neighborhood. So that's where he is. He has not been in favor of defunding the police or abolishing the police.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He's rolled out a number of other policy agendas as well. What can you tell us about those? Are they just an indictment of President Trump's policies, or does he lay out his own vision for the future?

LIASSON: No. Joe Biden is trying to go beyond a heavily anti-Trump measure and lay out his own vision for the future. He has talked about much more government investment in the economy, in low-income housing, in low-income schools, free community college. He has not endorsed the Green New Deal, but he has come out with a pretty ambitious environmental agenda. He wants to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 2050. He wants to spend $500 million on solar panels.

On health care, he has still stuck to the middle ground in the Democratic debate. He doesn't want mandatory "Medicare for All," but he does want to add a public option to Obamacare. And he has tried to stick to the middle ground on things like fracking. He doesn't want an outright ban, but no new permits on federal lands.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Finally, Mara, we only have a few seconds left. The president was silent for a long time on the death of Congressman John Lewis. It was at least half a day before he tweeted very brief condolences.

LIASSON: He did tweet out something that was grammatically strange. He said, quote, "saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family." And he also ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for the rest of the day on Saturday yesterday.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that is national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.