The race for the White House is not running through Colorado this year, but the differences between the candidates on local issues are profound.
The economy and health care are just two of those issues where President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden split. Moreover, there is little doubt that the events of 2020, including racial unrest, the coronavirus pandemic and recession, have made clear how much policy decisions at the national level impact Colorado.
The Colorado Sun researched the candidates’ platforms and asked the presidential campaigns to respond to more than a dozen questions on key Colorado issues. In their responses, neither campaign addressed every issue covered below.
On coronavirus response
The coronavirus pandemic has shaped the campaign in more ways than one, and on that issue Trump’s and Biden’s views are predictably divergent.
Echoing public health experts, a study by Oxford University found the Trump administration mangled its response to the virus. The Trump administration largely delegated and deflected to the states responsibility for obtaining medical supplies, while also outbidding states for some equipment. His administration in September released a plan for distributing a coronavirus vaccine and said it would “engage with state, tribal, territorial, and local partners” to facilitate distribution.
Biden has repeatedly criticized Trump for the way he has handled the virus, and advocates for a greater federal response. His website says he would “take responsibility” for distributing medical equipment to states, and he proposes setting up new federal infrastructure to handle the response to the virus and coordinate with states.
Trump has mocked Biden for wearing a mask, and Biden has called on every governor to mandate mask wearing.
On the economy
Trump’s stance on providing economic relief to states in response to the pandemic has changed throughout the fall, as he called off stimulus negotiations with Congress before shortly restarting them and asking for a more aggressive economic response. On this issue, Biden says he believes the federal government should do more to provide economic aid to states and has criticized Republicans in Congress for not passing an aid package.
Biden supports additional stimulus checks, if needed, and says he would provide more money to states to protect essential workers from being laid off. He’s also suggested Congress should establish a pool of money for states to draw from.
Trump has repeatedly portrayed a rosy version of the economic recovery and has leaned on the strength of the economy in some of his campaign messaging. “I had to close the greatest economy in the history of our country,” he said at the first presidential debate. “And by the way, now it’s being built again.”
Trump and Republicans in 2017 slashed taxes for the vast majority of Americans in an effort to stoke greater economic growth. It is difficult to say definitively what impact that cuts had, though they haven’t boosted the economy to the extent Trump said they would.
But economic indicators suggest the path toward normalcy could be long and rugged, and Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree on a stimulus package, even as the chair of the Federal Reserve pleaded for them to take action.
Biden says his service as vice president during the recovery from the Great Recession qualifies him to lead the post-pandemic recovery. He has connected the economic collapse with Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis.
His website says he would repeal “some of Trump’s tax cuts for corporations” and impose “common-sense tax reforms that finally make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.” He would raise taxes for people making more than $400,000 annually.
On the environment
The candidates have strikingly different views on energy and the environment — issues that are particularly important to Coloradans. Trump has consistently promoted fossil fuels in his speeches and his policies. He and his campaign have attacked Biden’s position on fracking. The former vice president says he won’t ban fracking but would like to phase it out over time as part of an aggressive effort to stave off the worst effects of climate change. On his campaign website, Biden says he opposes new permits for drilling on public lands and waters but his position statement did not address existing operations.
Fracking on public lands expanded under the Trump administration, as the Interior Department under his leadership has weakened rules that regulate the practice. The administration has repealed or scaled back many Obama-era environmental regulations, including those that aimed to cut back carbon pollution.
Environmental advocates applauded Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan, which was more ambitious than the position he staked out during the primary. His plan seeks to transition the U.S. to net zero emissions by 2050, which would likely require regulations more stringent than those implemented by Obama.
“I know meeting the challenge would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, protect our planet for future generations,” Biden said when he unveiled his plan.
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On health care
Biden resisted pressure to move to the left on health care during the primary. He says he supports creating a Medicare-like public option that would enable people to buy a government-run health care plan. He has said he would lower the age of eligibility for Medicare and focus on strengthening and protecting the Affordable Care Act.
Biden’s Medicare scale-up could have ramifications in Colorado, as it would enable states that expanded Medicare — like Colorado — to take part in a government run, “premium-free public option,” so long as states help cover part of the cost.
Trump and Senate Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare, which now provides health care to over 20 million Americans, early in the president’s term but were unsuccessful. Trump has not put forward a plan outlining what he would replace Obamacare with, even though his administration is challenging the law’s legality in court.