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Democratic super PAC ads attack Trump's handling of coronavirus crisis

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President Trump is so far earning favorable reviews from Americans for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak – but that isn't stopping some of his political opponents from trying to sow doubts.

A series of television commercials began appearing Wednesday on cable and broadcast television and on some social media platforms as part of ongoing multimillion dollar ad campaigns to attack the president and buoy the eventual Democratic nominee.

The attempt to discredit the president's handling of the crisis comes as a CBS News poll released on Tuesday finds that 53% of Americans think the president is doing a "good job" of handling the pandemic, compared to 47% who think he's doing a "bad job." The poll also finds that 54% of respondents are optimistic about the administration's ability to handle the outbreak.

Unite the Country PAC, a group spending money to bolster Joe Biden's chances, is out today with a new message that directly questions Mr. Trump's handling of the crisis.

"Crisis Comes" opens with images of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama flash on-screen as an announcer says, "Donald Trump didn't create the coronavirus, but he is the one who called 'hoax.' Who eliminated the pandemic response team. And who let the virus spread unchecked across America. Crisis comes to every president. This one failed."

The group is spending roughly $1 million initially to air the ad nationwide on cable news channels and on some broadcast television news programs, according to Steve Schale, executive director of Unite the Country PAC.

"The reality is that we are in this mess because he didn't take the crisis seriously at a time when he needed to," Schale tells CBS News. "This election in November is going to be defined probably largely by how the U.S. responded to the health crisis and how we get out of it economically. It's an important conversation to have."

Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC vowing to spend at least $150 million to back Biden, also launched an initial $6 million push this week to raise similar concerns.

Priorities blames Mr. Trump's "disastrous response to the rapidly worsening coronavirus pandemic" and seeks to "contrast Trump's chaotic, unstable behavior with the honest, steady leadership that Vice President Joe Biden would bring to the job."

One of the ads the group is placing in rotation, "Exponential Threat," uses the president's past words about the virus's spread against him – juxtaposing words like "We have it totally under control" on-screen alongside a growing chart tracing the number of coronavirus cases across the country.

The ad ends with these words onscreen: "American Needs a Leader We Can Trust."

Similar ads from other groups are expected in the coming weeks.

The Trump campaign is calling on TV stations not to run one of the ads because it inaccurately portrays the president as having called the virus "a hoax." Instead, he has clarified that he was referring to how some Democrats characterized his response to the crisis. 

For his part, Biden was asked by reporters on Wednesday about the apparent support so far for how the president is handling the crisis.

"I'm not suggesting what the public sees about his leadership. What I'm suggesting is that I know what has to be done and in the following: That faster is better than slower," Biden said in one of his first regularly-scheduled virtual press briefings.

"I don't care if the president's numbers are going up and down. I know, like everybody else who's ever dealt with these things, that time is of the essence. Time is of the essence," he said.

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