PHOENIX: US President Donald Trump participates in a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment in Phoenix, Arizona on May 5, 2020. – AFP

NEW YORK: Joe Biden’s advantage over President Donald Trump in popular support has eroded in recent weeks as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee struggles for visibility with voters during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. The opinion poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday found that 43% of registered voters said they would support Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election, while 41% said they would back Trump. That makes the contest essentially a toss-up, as the results are within the poll’s credibility interval.

Biden led by 6 percentage points in a similar poll last week and by 8 points in a poll that ran April 15 to 21. The former vice president has been forced to run his presidential campaign from his Delaware home in keeping with restrictions aimed at combating the virus, which has killed more than 70,000 people in the United States and put 30 million people out of work. By contrast, Trump has put himself at the helm of the US pandemic response, with regular White House briefings until recently.

Some of Biden’s most dominant recent headlines focused on a former US Senate aide’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her in 1993. Biden said last week the alleged assault “never happened” and asked the Senate to make public any documents related to the accusation by Tara Reade, who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office from December 1992 to August 1993. The political impact of the situation was not yet clear in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, which showed 53% of the American public said they were “somewhat” or “very” familiar with Reade’s allegation.

According to the poll, 45% of Americans said Trump was better suited to create jobs, while 32% said Biden was the better candidate for that. That pushed Trump’s advantage over Biden in terms of job creation to 13 points, compared with the Republican president’s 6-point edge in a similar poll that ran in mid-April. Thirty-seven percent said Trump was better leading the country’s coronavirus response, while 35% preferred Biden. A similar poll in mid-April showed Biden had a slight edge over Trump when it came to the nation’s response to the disease.

Overall, 42% of Americans said they approved of Trump’s performance in office, and 53% said they disapproved. The president’s popularity has remained relatively flat for more than a year. The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,215 American adults, including 1,015 who identified as registered voters. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

‘Losers’: Trump hits back
Meanwhile, a biting new anti-Trump ad by a group of dissident Republicans, including the husband of a top White House aide, prompted the US president to lash out Tuesday at the “losers” who created it. Tens of thousands of Americans have been killed by “a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored,” according to the one-minute online video, titled “Mourning in America.”

It is a play on the famous 1984 re-election campaign commercial and slogan by Ronald Reagan, “Morning in America,” and attacks Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “Under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker, and sicker, and poorer,” the ad’s narrator says, describing an “economy in shambles” with 26 million Americans out of work due to a nationwide shutdown. “And now, Americans are asking, if we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”

The total number of first-time claims for jobless benefits topped 30 million in the six weeks to the end of April. The spot, which quickly went viral and has been seen more than five million times since its Monday release, mimics the cadence of Reagan’s famous commercial. But while that one projected prosperity and optimism, the anti-Trump ad showed dystopian images of dilapidated homes, abandoned factories and a man applying for unemployment insurance.

The video was produced by “The Lincoln Project,” a group of self-described “never-Trump” Republicans including George Conway, husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. Trump attacked the group in a four-tweet rant in the early hours of Tuesday. “Their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” Trump added, referring to revered Civil War-era president Abraham Lincoln. “I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad.”

Trump, apparently still incensed, addressed the issue again Tuesday with reporters before departing for an event in Arizona. “I would have them change the name to the ‘Losers Project,'” he said. “They’re Republican losers.” Trump has always used fiery language to push back at opponents, but he has been particularly vocal during the pandemic as critics savage his response. – Agencies