President Donald Trump will try to put his bout with COVID-19 behind him with a return to the campaign trail in Florida on Monday, while his rival Joe Biden is back in Ohio, a must-win state for the Republican incumbent where polls are showing a tight race on Nov. 3.
Trump’s rally at an airport in Sanford, Florida, will be his first since he disclosed on Oct. 2 that he tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, and will kick off a three-week sprint to Election Day.
Trump, who spent three nights in a military hospital for treatment, said on Sunday he had fully recovered and was no longer infectious, but did not say directly whether he had tested negative for the coronavirus.
Biden tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, his campaign said in a statement. The Democratic former vice president has tested negative a number of times since Trump announced his positive test.
Trump, 74, is seeking to change the dynamics of a race that national opinion polls and some state polls show he is losing to Biden, who is 77.
For months, Trump had worked furiously to shift public attention away from the virus and his handling of the pandemic, which has infected nearly 7.7 million people in the United States, killed more than 214,000 and put millions out of work.
His own illness has put the spotlight squarely on his coronavirus response during the closing stretch of the race.
Speaking to unionized auto workers in Toledo, Biden said he and former President Barack Obama played a key role in keeping the U.S. auto industry afloat during the financial crisis and recession more than a decade ago.
“Barack and I bet on you and the American worker and it paid off,” said Biden, who is hoping to undermine what polls show is Trump’s greatest strength, the view among some voters that the former real estate entrepreneur is better at handling the economy.
Part of that effort requires winning over blue-collar workers, who helped Trump carry Pennsylvania as well as Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016, paving the way for his victory over the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
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 competitive race.
Trump won the state by 8 percentage points four years ago and almost certainly must carry it again to win reelection. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio.
“President Trump won Ohio convincingly in 2016 and will do so again in November, so we are thrilled to see Joe Biden wasting a valuable day on the campaign trail visiting a state he cannot win,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.
FLORIDA UP FOR GRABS
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 reshaped his campaign approach since contracting the virus.
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 in 2016 by just 1.2 percentage points.
Critics fault Trump for failing to encourage supporters at campaign events, and even White House staff, to wear protective masks and abide by social-distancing guidelines. At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Standing alone on a White House balcony on Saturday, a maskless Trump urged hundreds of largely Black and Latino supporters to help get out the vote. Most in the crowd wore masks but ignored social-distancing guidelines.
Biden, who has said it is irresponsible for any candidate to hold events where attendees are not wearing masks or engaging in social distancing, lashed out at the president’s approach.
“President Trump comes to Sanford today bringing nothing but reckless behavior, divisive rhetoric, and fear mongering,” Biden, he said in a statement.
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 “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Trump also said, without producing evidence, that he was now immune, an assertion that drew a flag from Twitter for violating the social media platform’s rules about misleading information related to COVID-19.
The scientific research has been inconclusive on how long people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies and are protected from a second infection.