(Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign plans to roll out a new advertisement targeting Democratic opponent Joe Biden’s record on China in must-win states for November’s election, doubling down on a tough-on-China argument that helped his successful 2016 campaign.
Biden and his campaign have been unloading ads accusing Trump of weakness on China and conducted a series of local television interviews in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, lambasting what they see as the Republican president’s botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic that started in China but has now killed more than 60,000 people in the United States.
In its most incendiary language yet, an aide from the Biden campaign told Reuters that Trump’s handling of the crisis had led to scores of U.S. deaths.
“How does the Trump campaign defend the worst failure of presidential leadership in modern history that costs thousands of Americans their lives?” said TJ Ducklo, Biden’s campaign spokesman.
Trump’s campaign is fighting back. A new, nearly two-minute video that the campaign is set to release on Thursday celebrates Trump’s decisions to ban most travel from China and Europe during the coronavirus outbreak.
The new Trump ad, seen by Reuters ahead of its release, also attacks Biden for earlier remarks that travel bans are not effective against the virus and for calling Trump “xenophobic” and “fear-mongering.”
A Trump campaign aide said they plan to invest “five figures” behind the digital advertisement and to focus on the same swing state regions where Biden conducts interviews with local television outlets but did not specify particular locations.
The tit-for-tat arguments offer a preview of a major front of the Nov. 3 election battle: Who can be tougher with China.
Trump’s campaign is mining Biden’s nearly five-decade record as a senator, vice president and presidential candidate for fodder for attacks related to China.
Biden’s allies have welcomed the fight, arguing that Trump trusted China’s response, allowing the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, despite global concerns that Beijing was not being transparent over the extent of the crisis.
Political action committees allied with both campaigns have also been bolstering the attacks with ads of their own. Some of the Trump-friendly ads cast Biden as friendly to China’s ruling Communist Party, while the Biden-backing spots portray Trump as too trusting of the Chinese during the early stages of the outbreak.