2020 Election Live Updates: Why a Trump Tactic vs. Biden May Not Work in the Coronavirus Era

President Trump arriving at an event on Wednesday about combating crime in American cities. 

Joe Biden will release a video of a conversation with Barack Obama. Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group is putting $15 million toward races in eight states.

Michael Bloomberg’s gun control organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, is making an initial investment aimed at helping Democrats flip three Senate seats, win state legislatures and lift Joe Biden to victory in Florida.

As President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. thrash through the challenges of holding conventions, big rallies and debates as the coronavirus continues to surge across the country, it has become clear that the limitations have forced their campaigns to try new tactics.

Case in point: Mr. Trump’s campaign has been sending out daily “question of the day” emails to reporters, suggesting topics they should raise with Mr. Biden out on the campaign trail. Here’s one: “How many police officers need to be assaulted in the streets of Portland by radical left-wing mobs for you to condemn it?”

The Trump campaign is hardly the first to try to plant leading questions with reporters trailing an opponent. The goal for Mr. Trump, who has been on the defensive this summer, is to get Mr. Biden to address on camera what Republicans see as his vulnerabilities. It was no coincidence that the question about Portland dovetailed with Mr. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that he planned to dispatch federal law enforcement officials to more Democratic-led cities to respond to social unrest and crime.

But what if there are no reporters following Mr. Biden on the campaign trail? What if there is no Mr. Biden traveling around the country? Mr. Trump’s tactic might be somewhat more effective in normal times, when reporters could get close enough to sneak in a few questions.

But in these days of Covid-19, Mr. Biden is not walking along rope lines of supporters or strolling off any stages, the kind of open spaces where reporters could waylay him for a few questions. This dynamic could surely change in the months ahead, but for now, the real question of the day may be whether Mr. Trump’s question of the day is like that tree falling in a forest.

Speaking to his old boss, Mr. Biden reflected on a deeply personal subject: when his son Beau Biden was dying of brain cancer.

That experience, Mr. Biden told former President Barack Obama in a recent conversation, underscored the importance of the Affordable Care Act.

A full video of that conversation will be released at 10 a.m. on Thursday — a high-profile step by Mr. Obama to lend a hand to Mr. Biden, his former vice president. Hours ahead of the release, the Biden campaign put out another excerpt, this time on the subject of health care.

“I used to sit there and watch him in the bed and in pain and dying of glioblastoma,” Mr. Biden said of his older son, who died in 2015. “And I thought to myself, what would happen if his insurance company was able to come in, which they could have done before we passed Obamacare, and said: ‘You’ve outrun your insurance. You’ve outlived it. Suffer the last five months of your life in peace. You’re on your own.’”

Mr. Trump came into office on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but he and Republicans in Congress failed in their efforts to undo the health law in 2017. Still, the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to undermine the law, and it is now asking the Supreme Court to overturn it.

Health care was a central issue for Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, and they are emphasizing it again this election cycle, especially with the pandemic underscoring the importance of insurance coverage and care for the sick.

“You and I both know what it’s like to have somebody you love get really sick, and in some cases to lose somebody,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden in their conversation. “But that loss is compounded when you see the stress on their faces, because they’re worried that they’re being a burden on their families. They’re worried about whether the insurance is going to cover the treatments that they need.”

He added: “I couldn’t be prouder of what we got done. Twenty million people have health insurance that didn’t have it because of what we did.”

Michael R. Bloomberg’s gun control organization is making an initial $15 million investment in digital advertising in eight states, where it aims to help Democrats flip three Senate seats, wrest control of state legislatures and lift Mr. Biden to victory in Florida.

The group, Everytown for Gun Safety, has pledged to spend $60 million in all during the 2020 campaign.

The opening investment includes $5 million earmarked for Florida, the lone state where Everytown plans advertising in the presidential contest; $3.5 million in Texas, where the group is focusing on six House races; and $1 million to $1.5 million in Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina — three states where it will advertise in Senate races — as well as Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

The group is also planning an initial $500,000 investment in Georgia, where in addition to the state legislative contests the group will advertise on behalf of Representative Lucy McBath, a suburban Atlanta Democrat who used to work as an Everytown spokeswoman.

Though the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial disparities in policing have dominated Americans’ attention this summer, John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president, said in an interview that he believed gun violence remained hugely important to voters.

“Post-Covid, our polling tells us it’s more critical to voters than ever,” Mr. Feinblatt said.

The announcements piled up one after the other this week.

Mr. Trump, who has often disparaged face masks, urged Americans to wear them. The day after, on Wednesday, the Republican governors Mike DeWine of Ohio and Eric Holcomb of Indiana both imposed statewide mask mandates.

Assuming Mr. Trump will stick to a consistent message is never a solid bet, but a broader shift is coming into focus regardless of whether he himself continues to support mask-wearing. As the coronavirus rages across the country, with caseloads increasing in many states, Republican officials are starting to accept what public health experts have been saying for a long time: Masks are one of the best tools available to reduce the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine.

This shift is far from universal. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia not only refused to impose a statewide mask mandate but forbade local officials from issuing their own, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has resisted a mandate even as his state has become an epicenter of the pandemic. But the shift is real, and it corresponds with polling showing overwhelming public support for masks.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that 80 percent of Texas voters agreed with the mask mandate imposed by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. A national poll from Politico found that 53 percent of registered voters strongly supported mask mandates, and an additional 19 percent somewhat supported them. And while there was a significant partisan divide — Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to approve of the mandates — support was well over 50 percent in both parties.

To his legions of listeners, Rush Limbaugh calls the demonstrators in Portland, Ore., “anarchists” who “hate Americans and America.” He recently made an ominous prediction: “I can see secession coming.”

On Fox News, Sean Hannity describes the scene in Portland as “a literal disaster area.”

On Wednesday, Breitbart News — which features a “Riot Crackdown” page on its website — published an article declaring, “Now would be a real good time to do whatever is necessary to obtain a permit to legally carry a handgun.”

Right-wing outlets and conservative media stars have seized on the weekslong protests in Portland as a rallying cry for law and order, instructing their followers to fear for their safety and blaming Democratic leaders for failing to restore peace.

Their commentary — beamed out daily to millions — has increasingly mirrored the fear-laced messaging of Mr. Trump and his re-election campaign, which has warned that a Biden presidency would usher in chaos and routine violence in the streets. With the November election looming, Mr. Trump has pledged to send forces to Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and other major cities.

Democratic officials have called the federal deployment in Portland, where agents have used militarized tactics like firing tear gas at protesters and have pulled some demonstrators into unmarked vans, authoritarian and dangerous. “This is an attack on our democracy,” said Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler.

But conservative pundits, typically no fans of an overreaching government, have not recoiled at the federal interference. Instead, they have thrown their full support behind the agents, loudly applauding the Trump administration for superseding city and state authorities.

Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday night again urged his most loyal supporters to unite behind Mr. Biden, saying the moment demanded they “engage in coalition politics” even as he encouraged them to continue fighting for a progressive agenda.

“I understand we do not agree with Joe Biden on all of the issues — believe me, I know that, I ran against Joe Biden,” he told hundreds of delegates on an evening Zoom call. “But at this moment, what we need to do is engage in coalition politics with the goal of defeating Trump.”

His remarks, just weeks before a pared-down Democratic National Convention is set to take place, served as both a call to action and an attempt to rally supporters who remain disappointed in his primary loss.

Since Mr. Sanders withdrew from the presidential race in April — and even when he was a candidate — he has been adamant about supporting the eventual Democratic nominee against Mr. Trump, urging his supporters to fall in line behind Mr. Biden.

He and many aides have been eager to avoid a repeat of 2016, when some of his supporters — fueled in part by his acrimonious race against Hillary Clinton — viewed the race as rigged and vowed never to support Mrs. Clinton.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sanders mobilized his supporters to back progressive candidates down the ballot and to continue their quest to push the party leftward. He specifically highlighted the work his supporters had done on six so-called unity task forces that he had formed with Mr. Biden, which released their recommendations two weeks ago.

“We have been making progress,” he said. “We’ve got to keep up the pressure.”

President Trump arriving at an event on Wednesday about combating crime in American cities.