Biden takes cautious approach ahead of second Trump debate
Former Vice President Joe Biden is taking a cautious approach ahead of the final presidential debate against President Trump in what is expected to be one of the final turning points in the campaign.
Public polls show the Democratic nominee leading in the core battleground states and running away from the president in national surveys, although the Biden campaign has warned that the race is far closer than how it’s being characterized by the national media.
Under pressure to alter the course of the race, Trump will make two stops in Arizona on Monday, followed by trips to Pennsylvania and North Carolina ahead of Thursday’s debate.
Biden only left the house on Monday to film an interview with “60 Minutes” that will run next weekend.
Biden’s campaign is playing his pre-debate schedule close to the vest, but sources tell The Hill it’s possible Biden could appear alongside former President Obama during a campaign stop Wednesday.
If Biden does make the short trip from Wilmington to Philadelphia, it would mark the first time he and Obama have been on the stump together this election cycle.
The COVID-19 pandemic has kept Obama sidelined for much of the general election and Wednesday’s stop will be his first in-person campaign appearance before a crowd.
A source familiar with the internal campaign discussions says the details were still being ironed out as of this past weekend but “that’s the plan.”
“His former boss is right down the road, less than two weeks to go, he might want to say ‘Hello,’” one source said, trying to play coy.
Another source familiar with the plans didn’t want to get ahead of the campaign’s announcements.
A Biden campaign official said Obama and Biden would not appear together until next week.
Biden is otherwise expected to spend a good part of the week off the campaign trail and preparing for Thursday night’s debate with Trump.
One source close to the campaign said that given the dynamics of the race, Biden doesn’t need to
“swing for the fences.”
“All he needs to do is draw a contrast and speak directly to the American people like he did last time,” the source said. “He does need to be prepared though because Trump is going to throw the kitchen sink at him.”
Democrats say Biden has his work cut out for him this week in preparing to take on Trump, whose volatility and desperation at this late stage in the race make him a dangerous opponent.
Trump’s disruptive first debate performance was clearly costly for him, with polls showing voters were turned off by the president’s bullying and badgering of Biden.
The Trump campaign says it will give Biden more room to speak Thursday.
But Democrats are urging Biden’s advisers to prepare him for anything, believing Trump will be loaded for bear with personal attacks involving the vice president’s son Hunter Biden and other potentially explosive allegations.
Democrats say Biden’s best bet is what has worked so far — focus on the economy and Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m not worried about it, this isn’t Biden’s first rodeo,” said Moe Vela, who was a senior adviser to Biden when he was vice president. “You just finish the final 15 days with a dramatic and profound contrasting message. Contrast the different styles in leadership and integrity. Contrast how you have a plan to turn the economy around and address COVID, while Trump has no plan at all. Contrast, contrast, contrast.”
While Democrats feel confident that voters will turn Trump away on Nov. 3, the final stretch cannot go by fast enough, as memories of Hillary Clinton’s shocking election defeat continue to color how they view the state of the race.
Fifteen days sounds like an eternity, particularly with the debate still in the mix.
“I think Biden is in a strong position to win, but many of these polls are still flawed and the races in the states are tighter and I’m not convinced that Biden has a 10 or 11 point lead nationally, I just don’t believe it,” said veteran Democratic operative Mark Longabaugh.
“The race will tighten out of the nature of these things and you have to factor in potential polling errors,” he said. “So you gotta keep your foot on the gas all the way through. I don’t think you can play it safe at this point. Biden will do a ton of preparation this week, it’s one of the final key moments where voters will get to look at their choices.”
Some Democrats are worried about Biden’s low-key public schedule over the next few days, believing that if he loses, Democrats will look back at his lighter travel schedule and bemoan the lost opportunities.
“Trump had Covid and he’s crisscrossing the country,” one Democratic strategist said. “The Biden campaign has a plane now. Get your mask on and get out there. I get they’re trying to be safe and he needs to do debate prep, but do you really want to risk this being the reason why you lost?”
But Biden’s lead in the polls and his massive spending advantage down the home stretch has Democrats feeling good that a final message that focuses on the economy and the coronavirus will help Biden close the deal.
Obama’s Wednesday event will be a big moment in the campaign whether Biden is there or not. And Democrats say Trump continues to expose his own mishandling of the pandemic by holding big rallies.
“Every time Trump holds a rally it’s a reminder of just how reckless and irresponsible he is and how he doesn’t give a damn about people’s lives,” said Vela.