Amid coronavirus threat, Trump heads to South Carolina for latest effort to disrupt Democratic primary


(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) — In another attempt to disrupt his Democratic rivals, President Donald Trump will hold a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on the eve of the state’s crucial primary — all while his administration works to tackle the coronavirus threat amid growing fears.

Friday’s rally at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center will mark the president’s fourth consecutive counter-rally ahead of a Democratic contest this primary season, signaling just how imperative it is for Trump to grab attention as voters select his general election opponent.

The campaign stop also comes as the president’s administration works to handle the new COVID-19 threat, as the stock market continues to fall. His Democratic rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, have also in recent days jumped to criticize the president’s response to the crisis.

In an interview with CNN on Friday, Biden blasted Trump for downplaying the threat, claiming “no one takes the president’s word for these things.”

“At a minimum, he exaggerates everything, and the idea that he’s going to stand there and say everything is fine, don’t worry?” Biden said of Trump. “Who is going to believe that? Let the experts speak like we did in our administration.”

Bloomberg also targeted the president, saying at a Tennessee campaign event on Friday: “The stock market has plunged partly out of fear, but also because investors have no confidence that the president is capable of managing the crisis.”

The White House defended the administration’s response to the coronavirus threat on Friday when Mick Mulaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, said: “We took extraordinary steps four of five weeks ago.”

“Why didn’t you hear about it? What was going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment.” Mulvaney said. “And that’s all the press wanted to talk about.”

He noted that the coronavirus threat “absolutely real,” 20 million Americans get the flu each year.

“This is not Ebola, OK? … It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS,” he said, pointing to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — two diseases with high fatality rates.

The president will head back on the campaign trial on Monday, when he rallies in North Carolina — a Super Tuesday state — on the eve of what is arguably the most influential contest for the Democratic primary calendar.

“It seems to be pretty effective,” Trump told reporters before his West Coast swing last week that saw events in Arizona, Colorado, and Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada caucuses. “I went just the day before in both cases Iowa, New Hampshire and so it seems to be effective.”

Trump has been clear that his reasoning for these rallies ahead of primary contests is to rattle his opponents.

“Will be in Manchester, New Hampshire, tonight for a big Rally. Want to shake up the Dems a little bit – they have a really boring deal going on,” Trump tweeted ahead of his New Hampshire rally on the eve of that states primary. “Still waiting for the Iowa results, votes were fried. Big crowds in Manchester!”

It’s the latest example of the president inserting himself into the Democratic primary, dropping in ahead of a critical contest with one of his signature massive rallies that not only soak up media attention, but can often cause logistical issues for candidates and voters trekking across the state for last minute events.

Trump — who also held counter-rallies ahead of both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — will continue his strategy on Friday night, ahead of Saturday’s primary in the Palmetto State.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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