Mar 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden and Sanders outline coronavirus plans of attack

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke on Thursday to address Americans and weigh in on the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture, via Axios' Margaret Talev: Biden and Sanders are looking to establish their own credentials for crisis management as they compete for the nomination to challenge President Trump in November. But they're also part of a broader pushback against the administration's coronavirus response, which has been criticized for being too slow, not aggressive enough in terms of testing and containment, and undercut by Trump's own rhetoric.

  • Biden's campaign announced work-from-home rules and plans to close some field offices to the public starting Saturday, according to an internal campaign memo.
  • Sanders' campaign has asked all staff to work from home and says they will focus on digital outreach rather than large events or door knocking.

What they're saying: Biden proposed a three-pronged solution, including...

  • Deploying mobile testing sites, with at least 10 per state and drive-through testing centers.
  • Preparing hospitals with ample testing kits, staff and materials, including utilizing resources from FEMA and the Department of Defense.
  • Accelerating the development of a vaccine and treatments, and ensuring that the vaccine is free when completed.

Biden said of his plan: "I offer it as a roadmap, not for what I will do as president 10 months from now, but for the leadership I believe is required right now, in this moment. President Trump is welcome to adopt it today."

Sanders offered his own proposal, urging Trump to declare a state of emergency, to "convene an emergency bipartisan authority of experts to support and direct the response," provide ample support staff and experts, and create hotlines for coronavirus concerns.

  • "In terms of potential deaths, in terms of the economic impact on our economy the crisis we face from the coronavirus is on the scale of major war and we must act accordingly."

Go deeper

How the coronavirus is changing Joe Biden's campaign playbook

Vice President Joe Biden holds a virtual campaign event in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

He built a TV studio at home, starts each day with three hours of medical and economic impact briefings, and checks in with congressional leaders. And, we're not talking about President Trump.

State of play: Joe Biden is overhauling his campaign — and standing up a shadow presidency of sorts — amid a national emergency that's eclipsed all other news.

4 takeaways from the Biden-Sanders Democratic debate

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The last time former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders took the debate stage, eight candidates were still competing for the nomination, Biden's campaign looked to be on its last legs, and the coronavirus epidemic was the subject of just one question from moderators.

The state of play: The world has changed dramatically since Feb. 25. Bumping elbows and standing the CDC-recommended six feet apart in a CNN studio without an audience, the two candidates, both septuagenarians, sparred over their visions for an America paralyzed by a global health crisis.

What to watch in tonight's debate: A new Joe Biden

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden at the Democratic debate at Gaillard Center, Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Viewers tuning in to tonight’s Democratic debate will meet a new Joe Biden — one who’s adopted two new progressive policies from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and who’s eager to pull their supporters away from the movement they’ve built into his own coalition.

Why it matters: This could very well be the last primary debate of the 2020 cycle, and Biden knows he has to start the work of winning over Sanders’ supporters before Sanders drops out.