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As Trump dismisses the virus again, Biden stands with a cautious majority

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Donald Trump
President Donald Trump salutes from the Truman Balcony upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center on Oct. 5, 2020.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: President Donald Trump is on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to the coronavirus.

And now exactly four weeks until Election Day, he’s allowed his opponent — Joe Biden — to be on the right side.

Before being released from Walter Reed on Monday, Trump tweeted that the public shouldn’t be afraid of the coronavirus, and he repeated that message in a video after returning to the White House: “I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger. But that’s okay. And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives.”

But 65 percent of Americans say they’re very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family will get the virus, according to a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey online tracking poll.

After returning from the White House, Trump took off his mask, despite still being potentially infectious.

Yet 85 percent say they wear a mask every time or most of the time when they leave their house and are in contact with others, per the same NBC New|SurveyMonkey poll.

Conversely, at last night’s NBC News town hall with Lester Holt, Joe Biden was on the side of taking the virus seriously, of being socially distant, and of wearing masks.

“Masks matter. These masks, they matter. It matters. It saves lives. It prevents the spread of the disease,” Biden said. “I hope no one walks away with the message thinking that [the coronavirus] is not a problem.”

NBC’s Mike Memoli summed up that exchange this way: “First block, in a nutshell: Biden-Mask 2020.”

It’s possible that today’s national CNN poll showing Biden ahead by 16 points is wrong. And ditto our national NBC/WSJ poll, which has Biden up 14 points.

But what if they’re more right than wrong?

It’s hard to win a race when you’re this far removed from public opinion on combatting a virus that’s killed more than 200,000 Americans — as well as when you’re this far removed from what the public considers acceptable presidential behavior at a debate.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

7,495,211: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 41,312 more than yesterday morning.)

211,424: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 469 more than yesterday morning.)

108.83 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

57 percent to 41 percent: Biden’s lead in the latest head-to-head national poll by CNN

$4 million: The amount that Mississippi Democratic Senate nominee Mike Espy raised in the third fundraising quarter.

2020 Vision: More on last night’s town hall with Biden

Here were some other answers from Joe Biden at the town hall Monday night with NBC’s Lester Holt:

On last week's debate with Trump: "If you notice, not one single time that I can recall did he offer a substantive answer or criticism related to a policy matter. It was all invective... And I did get very frustrated. I did get frustrated. And I should have said, this is a clownish undertaking, instead of calling him a clown.

On what he'd do if a conservative Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade: "The only responsible response to that would be to pass legislation making Roe the law of the land. That's what I would do."

On how you bring civility back to politics: “My point is you stop questioning motive. You go out and you debate the issues. Because we've all gotten down to the point where everything is about attacking the integrity of the other person."

On the Trump campaign in Florida linking him to socialism: "I look like a socialist? Look, I'm the guy that ran against a socialist. Remember, I got in trouble with the whole campaign, 20-some candidates? Joe Biden was too centrist, too moderate, too straightforward. That was Joe Biden."

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden delivers remarks in Gettysburg, Pa., where he will talk about bringing the country together.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch looks at how Joe Biden is responding to recent polling showing him underperforming with Latino voters.

While Biden has held a clear, consistent lead in most polling, there have been some trouble spots for him with Hispanics.

After the Democrat traveled to the Miami area for campaign events (including a town hall with our own Lester Holt as well as a trip to Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood), the Biden campaign released a new Spanish-language ad aimed at shoring up that underperformance.

The new spot centers on his running mate, Kamala Harris, pointing to her story as a “daughter of immigrants” and showing her marching at rallies as proof she will stand for “women, immigrants and DREAMers.”

The campaign also appears to be back running a spot it released earlier in the cycle, one that evokes Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and labor leader Dolores Huerta as examples of the American dream before pivoting to Biden’s economic record.

The Lid: The more things change…

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we asked whether the whirlwind of news events in the last week would move the 2020 numbers.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what a variety of doctors have to say about the decision to discharge Trump from Walter Reed.

Biden declined to criticize Trump’s doctors or a lack of transparency about the president’s health last night, but he also said he was not surprised that Trump contracted the virus.

Concern is growing for White House residence staff — who are largely Black and Hispanic and have little choice but to show up to work.

The White House says it won't do contact tracing for the Rose Garden event suspected of sickening lawmakers.

Some Trump advisors hoped his illness would provide fodder for a political reset. He’s now undermined that chance, the New York Times writes.

The White House is blocking FDA guidelines that could delay approval of a vaccine.

The Supreme Court sided with Republicans on a dispute over ballot witness requirements in South Carolina.

Biden is mounting a late fight for Miami.

Wednesday’s VP debate will now feature plexiglass barriers.