Trump Tries to Put COVID-19 Behind Him With Rally in Florida

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
A Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat lies on the ground next to a T-shirt and a seal on the South Lawn during a President Donald Trump campaign rally in Washington, Oct. 10. (Reuters/Tom Brenner)

President Donald Trump will try to put his bout with COVID-19 behind him when he returns to the campaign trail on Monday, beginning a three-week sprint to the Nov. 3 election with a rally in the vital battleground state of Florida.

The event at an airport in Sanford, Florida, will be Trump‘s first campaign rally since he disclosed on Oct. 2 that he tested positive for COVID-19. Trump, who spent three days in the hospital for treatment, said on Sunday he was fully recovered and no longer infectious, but did not say directly whether he had tested negative for the virus.

The president is seeking to change the dynamics of a race that opinion polls show he is losing to Democratic rival Joe Biden just 21 days before Election Day.

Biden, in a sign of fresh optimism as he leads Trump in national and many key state polls, heads on Monday to Ohio, a state Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016. It is Biden’s second campaign trip in as many weeks to Ohio, which was once thought out of reach but where polls now show a tight race.

Trump‘s rally in Florida, and planned rallies in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Iowa on Wednesday and North Carolina on Thursday, will be watched closely to see whether the president has changed his approach to campaigning since contracting the virus.

Trump, speaking from a White House balcony on Saturday, urged hundreds of largely Black and Latino supporters to help get out the vote. Standing alone, Trump was not wearing a mask as he spoke. Most in the crowd were wearing masks but not following social-distancing guidelines.

Asked on Saturday if Trump should be resuming rallies, Biden said it was important that he makes it clear to all those in attendance the importance of staying socially distanced and wearing masks.

“That’s the only responsible thing to do,” Biden told reporters.

Trump told Fox News in an interview on Sunday that he felt good and pointed to his physician’s memo from Saturday saying he had taken a test showing he was no longer infectious.

“I passed the highest test, the highest standards, and I’m in great shape,” Trump told Fox News.

Most recent polls in Florida, where a Trump loss would dramatically narrow his path to re-election, show Biden with a small lead. Trump won Florida over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016 by just 1.2 percentage points, which helped propel him to the White House.

On his visit to Ohio, Biden will deliver a speech in Toledo meant to undermine what polls show is Trump‘s last greatest strength, the view among some voters that the former real estate entrepreneur is better on handling the economy.

Biden also will attend a get-out-the-vote event in Cincinnati, his campaign said.

Trump has pulled back his advertising in Ohio in recent days, while Biden has increased his, another sign of the opportunity the former vice president and his fellow Democrats see to make more states competitive than they initially imagined.