On Politics: Does Biden Need to Turn the Flash On?

By Giovanni Russonello

Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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Where things stand

In a call with President Trump yesterday, governors raised concerns about the limited availability of coronavirus test kits. But he wasn’t particularly receptive. When Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana and a Democratic candidate for the Senate, told Trump that his state was on the verge of running out of tests, Trump replied that he had not “heard about testing being a problem.” The New York Times and other news outlets have repeatedly confirmed that many worried Americans who have symptoms of the virus are struggling to get tested. Trump has recently taken to highlighting the fact that the United States has tested more people than any other country — though it does not have nearly the highest testing rate per capita.

There’s something of a Democratic beauty contest playing out between Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, in spite of the apparent wishes of the guys involved. And Trump would love to keep it going. In an interview with Fox News, he seemed to be goading Cuomo into an improbable last-minute challenge to Biden for the presidential nomination. “If he’s going to run, that’s fine, I’ve known Andrew for a long time,” Trump said. “I think he’d be a better candidate than Sleepy Joe.” With the presidential race overshadowed by coronavirus coverage, the idea that Cuomo might take on Biden has become the closest that many people’s minds get these days to thinking about the nomination fight.

Indeed, in his daily remarks to reporters on Monday, Cuomo seemed to turn his attention from New York to the country at large. “You see this virus move across the state, you see the virus move across this nation,” he said. “There is no American who is immune to this virus. I don’t care if you live in Kansas, I don’t care if you live in Texas.” Biden’s few recent television appearances, meanwhile, have earned mixed reviews. He has often cut himself off or offered confusing statements, as Fox News has zealously reported.

In addition to endangering health professionals, the coronavirus and its effects are falling especially hard on the poorest Americans, particularly those in cities. In neighborhoods where many health care and service industry workers live, the obligatory use of public transportation puts a disproportionate number at risk: A Times analysis found that while public transit use has fallen drastically in hard-hit New York City, it has tended to remain at higher levels in some of the least wealthy areas, with heavy concentrations of nonwhite residents.

Photo of the day

President Trump inspected a coronavirus testing kit during Monday’s briefing at the White House.

Biden trails Trump badly in fund-raising. And now is a tough time to catch up.

Lots of us have plenty of time to be on the phone these days. Biden — who’s holed up in Delaware — is no exception. And, as Shane Goldmacher reports in a just-published article, Biden “is working the phones with top donors while cloistered” at home.

He’s seeking to make up ground after a grueling primary season in which he failed to match the fund-raising levels of most major rivals. And Trump, who’s waiting for him in the general election, has vastly more cash on hand than Biden.

We spoke to Shane about the difficulties of asking people for contributions during a pandemic, and how Biden’s fund-raising team is trying to meet the moment.

Take us back to early to mid-March: Where was the Biden campaign, just before the coronavirus ground everything to a halt? Unless I’m mistaken, Biden had a lot of momentum but he did not exactly have the most impressive fund-raising operation of 2020. Did he think he was on the cusp of a financial breakthrough before the virus hit?

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