Trump’s COVID diagnosis thrusts coronavirus pandemic back to forefront of White House race

While Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden heads to the crucial battleground state of Florida on Monday, President Trump is hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

After months of mocking the former vice president for his light in-person campaign schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic and ridiculing him for “hiding in his basement” at his home in Delaware, it’s now Trump’s who is sidelined and forced to postpone events, with a month to go until Election Day on Nov. 3, and with millions of Americans already casting absentee ballots or early voting at polling stations.

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And with the clock ticking — and the president trailing Biden in the latest public opinion polls in many of the key battleground states that will decide the White House winner — the spotlight in the presidential election has dramatically shifted once again.

Just two weeks after the death of trailblazing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rocked the race for the White House, giving the president an opportunity to rally Republicans by moving to quickly confirm a conservative justice to succeed the liberal-leaning Ginsburg on the high court, the focus of the campaign has been upended again.

President Donald Trump arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, on Marine One helicopter after he tested positive for COVID-19. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is at second from left. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, on Marine One helicopter after he tested positive for COVID-19. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is at second from left. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The president’s confirmation early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 instantly put the focus of the White House race firmly back on the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s efforts to fight the pandemic. That was further heightened hours later when Trump was admitted to Walter Reed.

“It’s not good news for the president in that the focus is now going to be on Covid-19, and when the focus is on Covid-19 Biden has a 10, 11, 12-point advantage,” veteran Republican pollster and communications consultant Frank Luntz said on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino.”

Luntz stressed that “the economy is Donald Trump’s strength, and the fact that he can’t get out there now is going to be a challenge for the campaign.”

“Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace agreed that “the coronavirus and the president’s handling of it is going to the top of the agenda.”

Wallace, who moderated Tuesday’s first presidential debate between Biden and Trump, spotlighted on “America’s Newsroom” that the pandemic “becomes the most important issue. … The general feeling on some peoples’ part is that the president hasn’t been cautious enough and that Biden has been too cautious. That’s going to be an issue now going forward.”

The pandemic swept the nation in February and March. Two weeks ago, the nation passed another grim milestone, as more than 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths were recorded, with than 7 million infections confirmed across the country.

Over the past

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Policing, criminal justice issues at the forefront in Dallas County race for Texas House

An already combative race for an eastern Dallas County statehouse seat grew even more contentious this week when Republican challenger Will Douglas questioned Democratic incumbent Rhetta Bowers’ support for local police.

“I’d like to push back on on the idea that Rep. Bowers supports local services,” Douglas said during an interview Monday with The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board. “I’m pretty sure Rep. Bowers chose not to sign Gov. [Greg] Abbott’s pledge to not defund the police. That brings me to another point of where representative Bowers and I differ. I’m a strong supporter of our law enforcement.”

“So am I,” Bowers cut in.

Douglas’ snipe came after Bowers fielded a question about her opposition to last year’s bill to cap a local government’s property tax revenue increase at 3.5%. Bowers said she opposed it because the city and county officials in her district told her it could harm their ability to fund public services like police, fire and emergency responders.

Bowers, who accused Douglas of being divisive, said he is distorting her record.

“My opponent has been very accusatory of me, not knowing me at all,” she fired back. “I am not about defunding the police. I fought hard for law enforcement when I was in the Legislature, and I took it as a great honor, and still do, to serve.”

Support for police has become a wedge issue since activists began calling for “defunding the police” after the death of George Floyd in May at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The issue gained more attention as cities like Austin began reallocating resources away from policing and toward social services to address issues, like homelessness and mental illness, that police encounter on a regular basis.

Abbott, a Republican, seized on the political opportunity to create a ‘Back the Blue’ pledge and asked lawmakers and citizens to sign it to show their support. The GOP sees the issue as an easy way to peel off voters in competitive races like House District 113, where Bowers is facing her first re-election campaign. The district covers parts of Dallas, Balch Springs, Garland, Mesquite, Rowlett and Sunnyvale.

Douglas, who has a Black father and a white mother, said reducing funding for police would impact communities of color that are most impacted by violent crime. He said Bowers is trying to stay away from calling it a “defunding” but the end result is the same.

“If your boss tells you he’s going to reallocate your paycheck, I think you’re going to consider yourself defunded,” he said.

Bowers said she has pushed back against the moniker of “defunding the police” because it sends the wrong message. But Bowers, who is also Black, said Douglas is oversimplifying a complicated issue.

Police leaders in her district have told her they need help with homeless people. Because of that, Bowers filed a bill last session that required more training for officers on how to interact with homeless people. The bill did not pass.

After Floyd’s death,

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