A day after Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign indicated that he would participate in a presidential debate next month if one is held, Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed impatience with the idea, saying that “we’ve had enough debates” and adding that his focus was on combating the coronavirus crisis.
Mr. Biden, the former vice president, has amassed a significant delegate lead over Mr. Sanders, but has treaded carefully around the subject of his rival’s future, mindful of the risks of alienating the senator’s supporters should Mr. Biden clinch the nomination. But on Tuesday, Mr. Sanders’s campaign offered the clearest signal yet that the senator intends to keep competing with Mr. Biden, when a spokesman confirmed his intention to appear at the next debate, if one occurs.
“My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday, when asked if he wanted another debate next month, and if he would participate. “I haven’t thought about any more debates. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this.”
Like Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden has been forced off the physical campaign trail because of the coronavirus outbreak, and is grappling with new ways to connect with voters and break through in the news media. His comments came as part of a wide-ranging set of remarks about engaging young people and confronting the virus that he delivered to reporters and other viewers from his home studio in Wilmington, Del.
Mr. Biden continued to press his argument that President Trump has been too slow in responding to the crisis, and he took issue with the president’s stated desire to reopen the country by Easter, on April 12. Mr. Biden warned against following “some arbitrary or symbolic timeline.”
“It would be a catastrophic thing to do for our people and for our economy if we sent people back to work just as we were beginning to see the impact of social distancing take hold, only to unleash a second spike in infections,” he said. “That would be far more devastating in the long run than implementing a thorough strategy.”
Polls show that the former vice president has been struggling to connect with young voters, an area of strength for Mr. Sanders. Before taking a handful of questions via a video conference with reporters, Mr. Biden aimed to empathize with the economic challenges facing younger Americans in this moment of national upheaval — and offered a reminder that they, too, are at risk.
“Every day we’re hearing heart-rending stories of deaths from people in their twenties and their thirties,” he said, urging adherence to public safety guidelines about social distancing. “But here’s what we must not do. We must not allow this pandemic to rob our young people of the futures and the economic opportunities that they’ve been working so hard to build.”
The nation, he said, is facing “twin crises.”
“The public health crisis is hitting older Americans especially hard,” he said. “The economic crisis is hitting younger people. All those hard-working young people in service industries, and in retail, that are being decimated by layoffs. All those who are hustling to make a living in the gig economy. They deserve the same benefits as everyone else does. We have to make sure they get them.”
Mr. Sanders has also been holding live stream events to talk about the threat from the virus and make the case that his policies on health care and income inequality have become more relevant amid a national health crisis. And as a sitting senator from Vermont, he is part of the Senate’s effort to pass an economic stabilization package.
When the virus put a halt to in-person campaigning, Mr. Biden faded somewhat from public view. But his campaign has now installed a makeshift television studio in his house, and he has made use of the studio several times in the past few days, including for appearances on CNN, MSNBC and ABC’s “The View.”
Still, Mr. Biden, who served for 36 years in the Senate, acknowledged the limitations of being confined to his house as a private citizen — albeit one who is likely to become a major party presidential nominee — as lawmakers scramble to respond to the crisis.
“I have to tell you, I find, I guess like anybody who cares about this, I’m chomping at the bit,” he said. “I wish I were still in the Senate, you know, being able to impact on some of these things. But I am where I am. And I hope to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, and I hope I’m able to get my message across as we go forward.”
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