After more than five months of mostly virtual campaigning amid the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he will resume in-person campaigning next month, with stops in some of the crucial general election battleground states.
The former vice president announced during a virtual fundraiser on Thursday that he plans on holding in-person events after Labor Day “without jeopardizing or violating state rules about how many people can in fact assemble.”
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“One of the things we’re thinking about is I’m going to be going up into Wisconsin, and Minnesota, spending time in Pennsylvania, out in Arizona,” Biden explained. “I’m going to be traveling throughout the country where I can do it consistent with the state rules about how many people can be assembled.”
Biden’s been working out of his home in Wilmington, Del., since mid-March, when the coronavirus swept the nation. Starting in late May, the former vice president’s also been holding some small scale in-person campaign events in his home state and in neighboring Pennsylvania ‒ which is an important swing state ‒ with people in attendance wearing masks and practicing social distance.
The former vice president ‒ who’s known as a skilled retail politician ‒ emphasized that “I’m a tactile politician. I really miss being able to, you know, grab hands, shake hands, you can’t do that now. But I can in fact appear beyond virtually, in person, in many of these places.”
Biden said he would get out and meet people in communities and local businesses and that he and his campaign would follow public guidelines and keep people safe. He stressed that they are going to do it “in a way that is totally consistent with being responsible, unlike what this guy’s doing.”
The “this guy” Biden was referring to is President Trump, who according to Biden has been holding “irresponsible rallies.”
The president also shut down in-person campaigning in March, due to concerns about holding large gatherings amid the pandemic. But in June he held his first large scale rally since the pandemic in Tulsa, Okla. Ahead of the event, Trump and his campaign touted that they had received 1 million requests for tickets to the event. But the crowds never materialized and large portions of the arena’s upper deck were empty as the president spoke.
A second rally – planned for the battleground state of New Hampshire in July – was scrapped on the eve of the event. At the time the president’s campaign blamed the cancellation on a forecast tropical storm that ended never impacting the rally site. Earlier this month, Trump acknowledged that the July rally was scrapped due to coronavirus health concerns.
Last week, as the Democrats held their national convention, Trump held campaign events in hangars at airports in the battleground states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona. Plenty of people attending these events were not wearing masks or socially distancing. The president is scheduled to hold a similar event Friday evening at a hangar at the airport in Manchester, N.H. Due to a state emergency rule, Trump’s campaign has said masks will be mandatory for people attending the event.
Biden’s return to in-person campaigning in the battleground states may blunt repeated jabs by Trump, his campaign, and allies for months that the former vice president has been “hiding in his basement.”