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Trump, Biden Hit Campaign Trail Amid National Unrest

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

What does the presidential campaign trail look like in the middle of several simultaneous crises? We're about to find out. Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump will be traveling today, meeting with Americans, some of the first real campaign events since the pandemic began. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow joins us now with the latest. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

MARTIN: So just a few things happening - global pandemic, demands for racial justice, debates about police brutality. There is so much uncertainty. How is all of this affecting the race?

DETROW: Yeah. It's affected it in a really big way. You have seen a major decline in President Trump's approval ratings. He dropped 10 points from month to month. In the latest Gallup survey, he's down to 39%. Our own polling last week found that two-thirds of the country thinks that he's made race relations worse. That's a big part of it.

And at the same time, former Vice President Joe Biden has substantial leads in a lot of polls - many of them ten-point leads or more. And what's different from the leads that Hillary Clinton had in 2016 over Donald Trump is that Joe Biden is above 50% in a lot of these polls. It makes it much more durable. So clearly, a lot of voters right now are looking at how President Trump is handling all these crises and not liking what they're seeing.

MARTIN: So President Trump is not liking what he is seeing in those poll numbers. He's made that apparent on Twitter. What's he actually doing to try to reverse those trends?

DETROW: He's been focusing a lot on what he says is a recovery from the coronavirus, pointing to last week's job reports that showed some jobs are returning. Of course, cases are still rising in 20 states, including Texas. And that's where the president is traveling today to do a recovery-focused event at a Dallas church, in addition to a fundraiser he's also doing in Texas.

The president is also going to start resuming those big campaign rallies. They've been on hold since March. But next week in Oklahoma, he'll hold his first one. That's a state that had not been hit as hard by COVID-19 it had reopened pretty quickly. But listen to the president lay out his rally schedule here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to be coming into Florida, do a big one in Florida, big one in Texas. And they're all going to be big. We're going to Arizona. We're going to North Carolina at the appropriate time.

DETROW: I mean, that tells you the problems he's having right there, the fact that he has to campaign in Arizona, the fact that he has to campaign in Texas. These are states where Joe Biden has a lead or is close and Democrats have not won in a very, very long time. And a big problem the president has politically is just a big erosion of independent voters who are turned off by his divisive approach.

And rather than shifting his tone to try and win them back, he's often going in the opposite direction. The campaign has ads mocking protests that are being seen favorably by large chunks of the country. And yesterday, President Trump said he would block efforts to rename military bases that are named after Confederate generals. This is on a day that NASCAR banned confederate flags at races.

MARTIN: Right. So you've reported a lot about how Democrats don't just want a return to the status quo with Joe Biden. They're expecting him to be about more than just being about not being Donald Trump. How is Biden responding to this moment?

DETROW: You have seen him lay out a lot of very specific proposals on how he wants to address policing reform, criminal justice reform, how he wants to deal with systemic racism, something he's talked about really bluntly. He's really trying to make it clear that he's taking this seriously. But that - you still see some skepticism from some corners, including about the fact that Joe Biden really played a role in these tough-on-crime laws in the early '90s that led to the current problem in criminal justice. He still has to answer those questions.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Detrow. Thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.