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Joe Biden’s low-key campaign questioned by Donald Trump and some Democrats
25 September 2020, 14:04
The US presidential election rivals have had markedly different approaches so far.
The final stretch of a US presidential campaign is typically a non-stop mix of travel, caffeine and adrenaline – but Joe Biden is taking a lower key approach.
Since his selection of California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate on August 11, Mr Biden has had 22 days when he either did not make public appearances, held only virtual fundraisers or ventured from his Delaware home solely for church.
He made 12 visits outside of Delaware during that period, including a trip to Washington scheduled for Friday to pay respects to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
During the same time, President Donald Trump had 24 trips that took him to 17 different states, not counting a personal visit to New York to see his ailing brother in the hospital or weekend golf outings.
Mr Biden’s aides insist his approach is intentional, showcasing his respect for public health guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus and presenting a responsible contrast with Mr Trump, who has resumed large-scale campaign rallies, sometimes over the objections of local officials.
Still, Mr Trump sees the contrast in travel as an opportunity to argue his packed schedule shows he is outworking Mr Biden.
The president seized on the Democrats’ announcement shortly before 9.30am on Thursday that Mr Biden would not have any public events for the day.
He instead spent the day preparing for his first debate against Mr Trump next week.
“Did you see he did a lid this morning again?” the president said of Mr Biden during a rally on Thursday night at an airport hangar in Jacksonville, Florida.
“A lid is when you put out word you’re not going to be campaigning today.
“So he does a lid all the time. I’m in Texas. I’m in Ohio. I’m in North Carolina, South Carolina. I’m in Michigan. I’m all over the place.”
Mr Biden’s aides counter that they see evidence in public and private polling that coronavirus remains a priority for most voters and make the case much of the crisis is Mr Trump’s fault.
They also say their focus on small, high-impact events gets results.
But some Democrats say it is critical Mr Biden infuses his campaign with more energy.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said not traveling because of the pandemic is a “pretty lame excuse”.
He said: “I thought he had his own plane?
“He doesn’t have to sit with one space between another person on a commercial airline like I would.”
Mr Hinojosa argued Mr Biden prioritising visits to Texas and Arizona could boost Latino turnout and potentially reduce the pressure on him to sweep Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – where he has focused much of his travel so far.
“We are campaigning safely and effectively, and our message is reaching voters in battleground states and generating the enthusiasm and energy we need to beat Donald Trump,” spokesman TJ Ducklo said.
The race between Mr Biden and Mr Trump has been generally consistent for months.
Mr Biden has maintained a comfortable lead in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many of the battleground states that will decide the election.
But polls that showed competitive races or even Democratic advantages in traditionally Republican states proved to be false indicators for Democrats in 2016.
Four years later, Mr Biden faces persistent questions about whether his campaign is organising and connecting with voters.
Beyond traveling more, Mr Biden is being urged by some Democrats to expand his message.
While he has given standalone speeches on issues like criminal justice reform, climate change and, last weekend, the Supreme Court vacancy, Mr Biden largely ignores those issues during his campaign stops.
When he appears before voters, he is generally laser-focused on the virus and the Trump administration’s mismanaging of it.
Mr Biden’s aides say the relatively light schedule, small events and message discipline reflect the biggest issue still confronting most Americans today – the coronavirus pandemic.
The presidential candidate has also sought to offer a responsible contrast to Mr Trump and his rallies, where thousands forgo masks.
Jim Kessler, an executive vice president of the moderate Democratic group Third Way said: “Every time Trump shows up and has a mask-less rally and says this thing is overblown, Democrats are winning the Covid battle.”
Mr Biden maintains a vigorous schedule even when he is not traveling.
His campaign has become a fundraising powerhouse through largely virtual events.
He raised a record 364 million dollars (£284 million) in August that has allowed him to blanket the airwaves across the country and outspend Trump.