Former Vice President Joe Biden will hold “virtual” town hall and rally events, his campaign told reporters late Wednesday, in lieu of holding massive rallies in places like Florida and Illinois. The campaign cited ongoing concerns about coronavirus, particularly in Illinois, which has at least 25 confirmed cases of the illness.
Florida and Illinois both hold their primaries this coming Tuesday and Biden is hoping to once again win commanding victories over his opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — victories which could bring a swift end to any competition for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden had events scheduled in Chicago and Orlando but “his campaign said that after consulting with officials, the former vice president would not hold large-scale events in the states,” according to MSN. He also canceled two fundraisers in Chicago, opting instead to connect with supporters individually.
The wave of fear over coronavirus may come as a benefit to the Biden campaign, which appears to be struggling with live events. The gaffe-prone Biden has been more gaffe-prone than usual of late and his campaign has scaled back his speeches and appearances, often limiting his remarks to less than ten minutes, likely to limit Biden’s ability to commit personal faux pas.
At 77 years old, Biden is well within the demographic most vulnerable to coronavirus and coronavirus-associated complications. The disease, strangely, is most dangerous to the elderly and particularly those who have pre-existing conditions, particularly respiratory conditions like COPD.
Sen. Sanders, who is 78 and has a history of heart issues, is also in danger of contracting the virus and, like Biden, has canceled most of his in-person appearances for the time being. Sanders planned rallies in Cleveland, Ohio, have been postponed, but the campaign has yet to say if they will hold virtual events in their place.
Sanders does not have any events on the calendar past next Tuesday, likely because his campaign will re-evaluate their chances at obtaining the Democratic nomination following Tuesday evening’s primary results.
The Democratic National Committee announced earlier this week that the Democratic presidential debate, which will be held Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona, will not have a live studio audience and, instead, the candidates will answer questions from constituents over video chat.
President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign insisted, until Wednesday, that they would continue to hold rallies and that, while attendees should take precautions, they did not believe the events posed any health threat. That all changed Wednesday night after the president delivered a solemn address from the Oval Office, announcing unprecedented measures, including a complete, 30-day travel ban on personal travel to and from Europe, to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
“Out of an abundance of caution from the Coronavirus outbreak, the President has decided to cancel his upcoming events in Colorado and Nevada,” the White House announced Wednesday.
Trump also bowed out of a planned “Catholics for Trump” campaign event on March 19. Tim Murtaugh, the Trump 2020 campaign’s communication director, suggested the cancelation was out of an “abundance of caution because of the coronavirus outbreak.” He will also skip “an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas and a fundraising luncheon with Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner in Denver,” according to Politico.
“The decision reflects the latest guidance from public health officials, who have cautioned against attending large gatherings, particularly for those who are elderly or have underlying conditions that would make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus,” The Hill reported. “A number of large events have been canceled or postponed as a result.”