President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE is seeking to reopen the economy and pave the way for a resumption of his campaign efforts, creating a conundrum for his presumptive opponent, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE.
Trump has not announced any new plans to resume his campaign rallies, but said last week he hoped to do so eventually. Biden’s campaign is trying to figure out how the Democratic presidential nominee in waiting can venture out to hit the campaign trail.
“It will put pressure on the campaign to do something,” one longtime ally who speaks to the former vice president said, echoing a concern Democrats have as the general election begins to take shape. “Just not sure what that looks like.”
In interviews with more than a dozen Democrats, they say they worry about how Biden will take on Trump as the president leaves the White House to hold campaign events, as they expect.
For now, Democrats are urging Biden to stay the course and keep conducting the campaign from the basement of his Wilmington, Del., home, where he has been holed up for more than a month.
“In essence, Joe Biden is modeling a shadow government and a shadow response to the coronavirus crisis,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “With that in mind, I think it’s more important he be guided by science and medical expertise as opposed to a game of chicken with the president.”
“If it is deemed safe to hold traditional campaign events, obviously Biden must match the president in terms of tactics, but he should not allow the president to ‘shotgun’ him into unadvised tactics,” Payne added.
In remarks at the White House on Friday, Trump said he hoped to be back on the campaign trail ahead of November’s election, saying the rallies are “a tremendous way of getting the word out.”
“It’s great for the country. It’s great spirit,” he said. Later, he doubled down: “I hope we’re going to have rallies. I think they’re going to be bigger than ever.”
Trump himself can’t guarantee the large-scale events he loves will be able to go forward even later this summer, given the warnings from public health experts that say events with huge crowds will be difficult as long as the coronavirus is around.
But it’s likely Trump will eventually seek to resume his signature rallies, perhaps in parts of the country where it is deemed more safe to do so.
Former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Biden faces new hurdle: Winning as front-runner The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden on the cusp of formally grasping the Democratic nomination MORE (N.Y.), who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Biden must be careful not to allow Trump to pressure him into any situations that could backfire on his campaign.
“You have to make the decision based on what medical professionals are saying and not by the ravings of Donald Trump, who told us we’d be safe by last Easter,” Israel said. “I think that at the end of the day, voters’ judgements will be based on whose guidance reduced risk and kept us safe and whose guidance increased risk and spread the virus.”
Even Republicans who have been critical of Trump share the belief that Biden shouldn’t try and challenge the president.
Republican strategist Susan Del Percio said “it is critical that Biden stays on his timetable.”
“Right now public polling shows that the public respects and trusts the experts. Biden should be rolling out his plans not only on how he will handle COVID-19, but the economy and health care as well,” Del Percio said.
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“When doing this, he should use experts and show how his knowledge of government offers detailed solutions. It seems dry, but it will allow him to roll out proposals that show the stark differences between him and the president.”
This weekend, Biden’s campaign has planned a day of community service across the country, a move which shows that his team is trying to think outside the box in terms of outreach and organizing efforts.
Although the efforts are virtual, his staff and surrogates are expecting to organize food drives and help hang signs on windows of homes in appreciation of health care workers, first responders and employees of grocery stores. Other efforts include calling three neighbors or attending a virtual community meeting.
Democrats wonder if those online outreach efforts will be enough to showcase Biden’s persona: a politician who does best in personal, one-on-one interactions with voters.
“It’s really not the best scenario,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on recent presidential campaigns. “We can pretend the virtual campaigning will work but the big fear is that it won’t.
“Joe Biden in the flesh is always better than Joe Biden in his basement,” the strategist said.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, (D-Mo.), agreed that while Biden “loves being out there shaking hands,” it’s not in his best interest.
“The answer is Zoom,” he said, advising the vice president to “do as much Zoom as possible …He ought to become the Zoom master.”