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Biden campaign pulls ads attacking Trump for now, but plows ahead with schedule

Biden campaigns after negative COVID-19 tests
Biden tests negative for COVID-19, continues on campaign trail 02:26

Former Vice President Joe Biden plowed ahead with his Friday campaign schedule, albeit behind schedule, after he tested negative for COVID-19 just hours after President Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus.    

The news of the first couple's diagnosis once again roiled a presidential campaign cycle already disrupted in the past year by the pandemic, a prolonged presidential impeachment battle, natural disasters and delayed results in the early caucus state of Iowa.  

Through most of Friday morning, Biden aides remained radio silent. Would Biden continue on with his campaign schedule? Will the campaign pull down advertising? Should he even be campaigning with the president and first lady in isolation at the White House? Nobody would answer. 

But one senior Biden campaign aide finally cracked by mid-morning, describing the president's health scare as "the definition of uncharted waters."  

Joe Biden Travels To Michigan To Campaign For President
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden prepares to board a plane to Grand Rapids, Michigan, at New Castle County Airport October 2, 2020 in New Castle, Delaware.  Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

"This has literally never happened," the senior aide added by text. "I think it's too early to tell what impact it has, but certainly going to be a lot of convos today about potential impact, what changes we make if any, etc." 

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Biden is scheduled to speak on Friday, advance teams were seen preparing for the event, originally scheduled to begin at 12:15 p.m. Only after Biden tested negative for the coronavirus did the campaign assemble the traveling press corps in Wilmington, Delaware, and alert them that the day's schedule would continue on a delayed timetable. 

Also Friday, Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon emailed staffers nationwide, reassuring them that "in consultation with health experts have continued to take every precaution to protect Vice President Biden, Sen. Harris, their spouses and our staff. The health and safety of the entire team has been, and will remain, our number one priority." 

O'Malley Dillon  —  who like all Biden campaign staffers continues to work remotely during the pandemic, and in her case out of her home in Bethesda, Maryland  —  instructed her colleagues to "refrain from posting about the situation on social media unless otherwise directed by your manager. We will share additional information and guidance with you as we have it." 

She added a P.S.: "We will continue to do hard things." 

That's been O'Malley Dillon's battle cry: "We can do hard things." Campaigning against an ill president, with just 32 days before Election Day and as millions of Americans start casting ballots —  a record number of them using absentee ballots because of pandemic health concerns  — is most certainly a hard thing. 

The Biden campaign is in the process of pulling down negative ads attacking the president for a yet-to-be determined time, a decision that came Friday afternoon in consultation with the former vice president and top advisers. It may take a little time to pull all of the ads down, however.

As for the Trump campaign, it is running several negative attack ads against Biden, but they focus more on raising concerns about "the radical left." An ad from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee has been deactivated as of today that asked viewers to "Please take the Official Trump Coronavirus Approval Poll NOW to tell us what you think." Similar versions had been taken down before today. 

Meanwhile, the pro-Biden Super PAC Priorities USA has been airing several ads against the president and his coronavirus response since the summer in battleground states. Communications Director Josh Schwerin told CBS News that going forward, "We're taking stock of the situation and hoping for a swift recovery for the President and First Lady. We have no plans to pull back on our ongoing efforts to hold the President accountable for his failures on the pandemic." 

Erickson reported from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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