Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Thursday repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump's response to the spread of the coronavirus at several campaign stops, accusing the president of failing to prepare for the outbreak as it continued to rattle investors and sent the global stock market tumbling this week.
"President Trump was briefed on the coronavirus two months ago, but he just buried his head in the sand," Bloomberg said at a rally in Oklahoma City. "His failure to prepare for a pandemic is crippling our ability to respond."
Bloomberg has increasingly leaned into his crisis management and public health experience in his campaign stops this week, as criticism of the Trump administration's coronavirus response mounts, chiefly pointing to his work leading New York after the 9/11 terror attacks.
His campaign released a public health emergency preparedness plan on Wednesday, and began airing ads on television in all 50 states and online knocking Trump's response to the coronavirus.
"Managing a crisis is what Mike Bloomberg does," the narrator reads in the 30-second spot.
After only holding one public event between the last two debates, Bloomberg spent Thursday barnstorming the southeast, holding events in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in an effort to rally support leading up to Super Tuesday, when he will first appear on the ballot.
Over the next few days, Bloomberg will also travel to North Carolina and Virginia and is scheduled to head back to Texas for an event in San Antonio. He'll spend Tuesday evening with supporters in West Palm Beach, Florida, ahead of the state's March 17 Democratic primary.
"We're obviously going to go to places where we think we can make a difference by our presence," Bloomberg senior adviser Howard Wolfson said after Tuesday night's debate. "We are going to be consistently looking at data that will inform our travel."
"We want to be in those places where when we fly into a market, we can have the biggest impact."
Bloomberg has worked to position himself as the moderate alternative to front-runner Bernie Sanders after the early voting contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
"At this point the primary is Bernie's to lose, and ours to win," campaign manager Kevin Sheekey recently tweeted.
But the former New York mayor, who has spent more than half a billion dollars on his campaign, is jockeying with several other candidates to deny Sanders the delegates he needs to clinch the Democratic Party's nomination.
He tried to sharpen the differences between himself and the other presidential hopefuls, including Sanders, across several campaign stops Thursday, appearing to dismiss policy proposals from the Vermont senator and other candidates at Tuesday night's debate as unrealistic campaign-trail pledges.
"I've never worked in Washington," he said. "I don't make pie in the sky promises, and I don't talk until the cows come home. And as you've seen in the debates, I'm not someone who just yells slogans even when they're not true."
Bloomberg has deployed hundreds of staffers and opened dozens of offices across Super Tuesday states, including some in areas where voters haven't seen Democrats campaign in years.
That outreach, in addition to his overwhelming multimedia ad campaign, has been effective, according to some voters: several people at his Houston event Thursday morning noted that they have been inundated with ads from Bloomberg online and on television - and haven't heard from anyone else.