Team Biden talks about getting their candidate out of the house
Joe Biden’s campaign is discussing how to get the former vice president out of the basement where he’s been holed up since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s team is taking a baby-steps approach so far, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
But the need to change things up is growing more urgent, especially now that President Trump is signaling he intends to return to the road months ahead of the fall presidential campaign.
The sources said Biden’s campaign is brainstorming ways for Biden to get out in public and be seen in a way that is safe for the 77-year-old candidate and those around him.
It’s a balancing act intended to ensure that Biden is seen and heard in fitting settings, but in a way that respects the calls by public health experts that Americans practice social distancing to beat down COVID-19, which has killed more than 60,000 people in the country.
One idea for an initial outing that is under discussion is getting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee into a setting where he could visit with first responders. Other ideas include visiting restaurants that are reopening under social distancing guidelines, or trips to other workplaces where employees have worked throughout the pandemic.
“I think there’s a middle road,” said one source who is familiar with the campaign’s discussions, adding that it’s “about acknowledging the people who have been working through this crisis.”
One source said the plans to have Biden venture out are imminent and would likely occur toward the middle of May or later in the month.
The discussions come as Trump announced that he would start to hit the campaign trail once again.
During a roundtable with business executives at the White House on Wednesday, he announced that he would be heading to the battleground state of Arizona next week.
“I think I’m going to Arizona next week and we look forward to that, and I’m going, I hope, to Ohio very soon,” he told reporters.
Trump said the visit to Arizona would be at an industrial site — and would not be a traditional rally — because it was too soon for everybody to get together and stand next to each other.
The president’s announcement that he intends to hit the road comes amid a plethora of polling that suggests Biden has a chance of defeating Trump in November.
An Emerson poll this week found Biden with a 6-point national lead, while a USA Today/Suffolk poll found Biden with a whopping 10-point lead.
Biden holds a 4.4 point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls in Arizona. A Fox News poll last week showed Biden with an 8-point lead over Trump in both Michigan and Pennsylvania. The Fox poll had Biden up 3 points in Florida. Another poll from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling released on Wednesday had Biden up a point in Texas.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany brushed off a question on Thursday about whether Trump was concerned about the polls, saying he is only concerned about “protecting the health and well being of the American people.”
Frustration has quietly been building among Biden allies who say they would like to see the former vice president emerge from his house.
“People aren’t just sitting in their basements,” said one ally, who has spoken to the campaign. “They’re grocery shopping, they’re going to get coffee, they’re taking walks around the block.
“There are optics that could be done better,” the ally said.
Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said it would be good for Biden to get out, saying that while polls show Americans support social distancing, “they want to see a presidential candidate in motion.”
“A side-by-side shot of Trump in action and Joe Biden sitting in his basement is bad TV,” Bannon said. “So if Trump is on the road, Biden needs to get up and out.”
Some Democrats disagree, and think it would be better for Biden to just stay at home given the views of some health officials that people should stay home until cases of the coronavirus slow more.
“The public understands why Biden cannot be more president on the traditional campaign trail at the moment — polling would actually suggest they prefer the caution that Biden and his team are demonstrating,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who served on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “It elevates a key contrast between Biden and Trump: common sense.”
And while some Democrats expressed concern about the potential of a split-screen moment with Trump out on the stump and Biden stuck in his basement, Democratic strategist Eddie Vale said that also benefits Biden.
“I would contend that a split screen is actually good for him,” Vale said. “Trump being erratic and running around putting others at risk, while Biden continues to be the responsible leader who is a calm and normal presence and is also leading by example.”
Biden’s campaign has been effective in doing interviews with local television in states and markets they’d like to win, he said. “I think they should stick with their plan because it’s working,” Vale added.