Biden attacks Trump on COVID-19, Florida as president heads to state

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSouth Africa health minister calls travel bans over new COVID variant 'unjustified' Biden attends tree lighting ceremony after day out in Nantucket Senior US diplomat visiting Southeast Asia to 'reaffirm' relations MORE tore into President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE as he prepared to visit a coronavirus-stricken Florida on Friday, blaming the president’s response to the pandemic for a sharp rise in cases and virus-related hospitalizations in the country’s largest battleground state.

“With over 232,000 cases in the state and over 4,000 deaths in Florida, it is clear that Trump’s response — ignore, blame others, and distract — has come at the expense of Florida families,” the former vice president said in a statement issued as Trump departed on a scheduled trip to Doral, just outside of Miami. 

Trump is set to receive a briefing at the U.S. Southern Command in Doral on Friday before holding a roundtable discussion with members of South Florida’s Venezuelan community in the afternoon. 

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In his statement, however, Biden said that Trump’s visit to Florida would amount to little more than a “photo-op and a distraction from his failures,” both in regard to his administration’s coronavirus response and his posture toward the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Trump’s trip to Florida comes as the Sunshine State emerges as a new global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Virus-related deaths and hospitalizations hit record daily levels on Thursday, as the state added nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases to its tally. 

The surge in cases in Florida came after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisWalt Disney World pauses vaccine mandate after DeSantis signs new legislation Fauci overwhelmed by calls after journal published mistake over beagle experiments DeSantis signs legislation limiting vaccine mandates in Florida MORE, a steadfast ally of the president's, moved to reopen the state following a statewide stay-at-home order. Trump praised the governor’s efforts, but critics said that DeSantis moved too quickly and with little regard for the advice of public health experts. 

Biden’s criticism of Trump also comes as polling shows the president’s support waning in the notoriously unpredictable swing state. Three surveys released last month showed Trump trailing Biden in Florida, including a Fox News poll that found the former vice president leading by 9 points. 

Trump only narrowly won the state in the 2016 presidential election, and his campaign sees a repeat victory there as crucial to his path to a second term. And while Election Day is still nearly four months away, a loss in Florida carries the potential to sink the president’s reelection prospects.