WASHINGTON — With Election Day just nine days away, President Donald Trump fought an uphill battle Sunday against two adversaries: Joe Biden and the pandemic.
Trump's repeated claim that the country had turned the corner on the coronavirus was undercut by news that members of Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle had tested positive — and by a senior Trump adviser who said the White House was "not going to control" the pandemic.
Pence, who had headed Trump's now-moribund coronavirus task force, did not quarantine but instead pressed on with campaign travel.
That turned the spotlight back on the issue that voters see as the president's biggest failure, playing straight into the hands of a Democratic rival whose campaign message centers on a critique of Trump's handling of the pandemic.
"It's sadly no surprise ... that this virus continues to rage unchecked across the country and even in the White House itself," Biden said in a written statement. "The fact that the head of the White House's coronavirus task force has an outbreak in his office and yet still refuses to follow (federal) guidelines shows us exactly why."
The outbreak comes less than a month after Trump spent three days in the hospital for COVID-19 in an earlier White House outbreak that also infected the first lady, their son, Barron, and more than a dozen aides and advisers.
In a sign of Biden's political confidence in the waning days of the campaign, he plans to campaign Tuesday in Georgia — a state that until recently was safely Republican and is now rated a toss-up.
And in New Hampshire, Biden won the endorsement of the state's influential conservative newspaper, the Union Leader, just before the president arrived to hold an airport rally outside Manchester on Sunday.
"America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up," said the paper, which endorsed Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson over Trump in 2016, in its first break from 100 years of GOP endorsements. "This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump's skill set. Building this country up sits squarely within the skill set of Joseph Biden."
Biden's venture into Georgia could be an overreach, reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's attention to some GOP-leaning states late in 2016 and taking critical Democratic-leaning states such as Wisconsin for granted.