By contrast, Trump crisscrossed the country over the weekend, holding multiple events in swing states. His campaign said that pace is only expected to ramp up to as many as six events in a single day in the runup to Election Day.
Biden’s low-key approach is highly unusual this close to an election, but it’s a testament to the extraordinary dynamics of the 2020 race, with a deadly pandemic reaching crisis levels in dozens of states. Democrats point to fresh polling that shows Trump’s rallies are a net negative for him in the nation’s core swing states, where concerns about the spread of coronavirus are strong.
Biden’s strategy is a sign of confidence and caution: The former vice president has stuck with his plan of running a slow-but-steady race premised on the idea that Trump steps all over himself when he’s out campaigning and best to keep making the election a referendum the president’s behavior. That, plus minimizing the threat of a Covid-19 infection.
“The biggest threat to Joe Biden is Covid. He can’t get it,” said Brad Coker, pollster for Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, whose last presidential survey showed Biden leading narrowly Trump in Florida. . “Aside from the health implications, if Biden got Covid it would blow up his candidacy and his whole narrative of being safe, social distancing, wearing a mask.”
Coker said there was also an element of “confidence” to Biden’s travel schedule but compared it to the prevent defense in football where a “team is playing not to lose. They figure they probably have this thing won and that he shouldn’t make a mistake. It’s not as if they think him being on the campaign trail can seal this election up, but he could make a mistake. So why take the risk?”
Biden on Monday defended his travel schedule, telling reporters he planned to make the rounds in upcoming days and highlighting events he’s held virtually.
“I’m gonna be going to Iowa. I’m going [to] Wisconsin, I’m going to Georgia, I’m going to Florida, and maybe other places as well,” Biden said. “There’s a lot we have been doing as well, in terms of being online, and everything from fundraising efforts to making sure we meet — I met today with a group of leaders in the Democratic party, laying out where we’re going to go, getting their input and the like, so we’re constantly, there has not been a day that hasn’t been a 12-hour day yet.”
Biden said he hoped to win Pennsylvania “by the grace of God” and expressed confidence in the swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin.
“The blue wall has to be reestablished,” he said.
Still, even the thought of a lighter schedule triggers PTSD in some swing state Democrats who recall the rosy predictions of 2016 only to watch their nominee go down in flames.
In Wisconsin, Trump drew thousands of people to a Saturday rally in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, even as he was criticized for holding a “super spreader” event at a time when the state was forced to open a field hospital on state fairgrounds as hospitals reached capacity. Trump plans another Wisconsin visit Tuesday and Vice President Mike Pence lands in the state on Wednesday.
Biden has visited Wisconsin just twice during the general election; the last time was Sept. 20. Hillary Clinton famously did not visit Wisconsin during the general election campaign then lost the state by fewer than 23,000 votes. Biden is ahead of Trump by 5 points in the pivotal battleground state, according to polling averages, but members of both parties believe the margin is narrower.
“I would hope that the mistake of 2016 is not replicated by not paying enough attention to Wisconsin,” said Terrance Warthen, former co-chair of Our Revolution Wisconsin. “I find it odd how little these guys — I don’t want to say work because you don’t know what he’s doing — but he seems rather content to just let his opponent shoot himself in the foot and I don’t think you can completely rely on that. I think you need to be out there every day at the very least, interrupting the news cycle.”
Trump has held 48 events in battleground states over 40 days, which includes time he took off the road after he became sick with Covid and was hospitalized. The president sometimes visited multiple cities in one day. In that same period, Biden held 37 events Biden traveled fewer than 29 days since the conventions.