Senate

Biden promises Democratic senators help in battleground states

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told Senate Democrats during a conference call Thursday that he plans to spend significant money in Senate battleground states and promised to wage a vigorous campaign.

Biden, who took a few questions from senators at the end of the call, said he fully recognizes the importance of helping Senate Democrats win majority control in November and vowed to travel around the country, despite the dangers of coronavirus, which has kept the former vice president cloistered at his home for months.

"Everybody wants him, please come to our state, come to our state," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is not up for reelection, said after the call. 

Manchin noted that Biden has recently been to Michigan, where Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is up for reelection, and said that Sen. Tina Smith (D), who is up for reelection in Minnesota, wants the nominee to visit her home state. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), another incumbent on the ballot, expressed gratitude for the Biden campaign's help, Manchin said. 

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Democratic senators thanked Biden "because he is paying a lot of attention to the Senate races."

"He's strong in some places where we need him to be strong to help us potentially win the Senate," Kaine added. "It was a good conversation." 

Much of the conversation was focused on the politics of the fall campaign instead of policy priorities should Democrats capture the White House and the Senate.

For example, Biden and his allies didn't talk about whether to overhaul the Senate's filibuster rule should they win big in November, senators said. 

Kaine said Biden's campaign has done joint fundraisers with Senate candidates and plans to expend resources in states with competitive Senate races, even if they aren't top targets of Biden's own quest for 270 electoral votes.

"He wants us to be successful because he wants to be able to get a lot of good things done," he added. "He rightly [thinks] the GOP will just try to block him." 

Republicans control 53 Senate seats but need to defend 23 GOP-held seats this November while Democrats have to protect only 12 seats. 

Democrats need a net pickup of three seats and control of the White House to win back the Senate majority.

In a readout of the call, the Biden campaign said "Vice President Biden underscored his commitment to supporting down ballot races and competitive Senate races to help win back a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate."

The campaign said Biden also discussed the expansion of his campaign staff, fundraising and voter outreach metrics.

Biden promised to be active in Senate battleground states but didn't identify any particular targets, according to senators on the call. 

"It was a much more general reference. I don' think he committed to any particular states. It was mainly the Senate battleground states," said one Democratic senator.

"He went through where he's been going and going to go, plainly he's out and active," the lawmaker added. 

A second Democratic senator said Biden discussed "how much money he might spend in different states where they also have Senate races." 

Although polls have shown Biden leading Trump nationally and in key swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania for months, the Democratic nominee promised he wouldn't take victory for granted. 

"He must have said this three times: I take nothing for granted. I know the polls look OK right now but I'm working tirelessly," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) a Biden ally who endorsed him early in the Democratic primary.

Biden told senators of his recent trip to Florida and plans to head next to Scranton, Pa., and Duluth, Minn.

"A lot of it was, we need to work together. Because as a man who served in the US Senate for 36 years, I think he uniquely understands the significance of running in a coordinated" campaign, Coons said. 

Manchin said he urged Biden not to forget to connect with working-class voters, who voted in large numbers for Trump in 2016.

"I said, 'Joe, people need to know that you recognize the dignity of the work [of] people that who have built this country.' I said, the coal miners left behind, all the factory workers left behind," he said. 

"'They need to know you fought for their pensions, fought for their health care," he added. 

Manchin also said he told Biden that if his campaign invested a little money in local races in West Virginia, it "would go a long way."

Senators were told ahead of the call that Biden would not take any questions but he did so anyway.

"At first they said no questions, well I knew that's not the Joe Biden that we all know," Manchin said. "He said, 'Listen, I've been sitting in your seat for 36 years. I never wanted to sit there and not be able to speak.' So he knows who the Senate is."

Updated at 5:59 p.m.

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