Prior to a speech this month in Durham, NC, Joseph R. Biden Jr. walked around a circle of attendees, chatting with each one before posing for a group photo. In Chester, Pa., A week later, he kibitzed with supporters, playfully slapping one in the arm. And on a recent trip to Florida, her private schedule for the day included time for a line of photos.
As the coronavirus raged across the country, Mr Biden carefully avoided many traditional aspects of running for president. But even as he maintains his cautious and understated approach to campaigning – an approach he bets voters will reward on election day in less than a week – he has continued with one of his favorite election activities: the retail policy.
Although he doesn’t quite kiss babies or walk a rope, Mr. Biden quietly continued chatting and taking photos with supporters backstage. Most meetings are not public and often take place far from the scrutiny of journalists. Participants were instructed not to take their own photos of their interactions and put their cell phones away before meeting Mr Biden – a protocol the campaign instituted for hygienic reasons, but that means there has few records of interactions on personal social media accounts. or otherwise, if there is any.
During a campaign trip this month to Erie County, Pa., Where Mr. Biden visited a plumbers union training facility and delivered a speech, he met face-to-face in an airport hangar with local leaders and supporters, including Jim Wertz, the chairman of the local Democratic Party. When Mr. Wertz told Mr. Biden that his young daughter debated at school in favor of the question “why should Joe Biden be the next President of the United States?” Mr. Biden asked for her number and called her.
“That’s who Joe Biden is,” Wertz then wrote in a Facebook post.
And that’s what Joe Biden does. Mr. Biden’s penchant for the face-to-face campaigning is well known, and his tendency to linger on the ropes after the events of the campaign has long been seen as one of his greatest political strengths. Some voters who met him, moved by Mr. Biden’s ability to share their personal pain, would come out of their interactions with hazy eyes and a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
But Mr Biden’s campaign events are now more modest affairs for the most part, with limited guest lists and strict social distancing requirements, frustrating some voters who have been turned away and largely depriving the party. former vice-president of the shoulder. interactions in the eyes that he needs. So now he does it another way.
The Biden campaign said that where possible, it tries to organize opportunities for Mr. Biden at its events to say hello and thank local officials and community members, following the safety protocols that ‘she set up for in-person events. He also asks participants to store their cell phones so that there is no back and forth of phones for selfies or personal photos for hygiene reasons; instead, the official campaign photographer takes the photos.
There are certainly potential strategic advantages for Mr. Biden in arranging non-public meetings with supporters. Unlike its pre-pandemic chord lines, its audience is carefully organized. Without reporters to attend the conversations, there is little chance that the television cameras will catch a blunder or misplaced remark.
And in a sort of political sleight of hand, at least one non-public moment led to positive local media coverage. Mr Wertz said news of Mr Biden’s phone call with his daughter had gone semi-viral, at least in the region: local news covered it and was featured in a column in the Erie newspaper.
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Still, allies say Mr. Biden’s backstage one-on-one reflects his natural impulse to connect with people on a personal level.
“I don’t know if that’s the Irish in him or what it is, but he really loves people,” said Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa and a longtime friend of the Biden family. . “I think he feeds on it. I think he draws energy.
“I honestly think if we hadn’t taken him out in February he would still be at one of the events in Iowa,” he added.
Terry Shumaker, a longtime Democratic leader from New Hampshire who has known Mr. Biden for decades, said the lack of interaction with voters for the former vice president “must be like a withdrawal.”
“It would be like telling him he can’t have ice cream anymore,” he said, referring to Mr. Biden’s favorite dessert.
During the World Series on Saturday, the Biden campaign ran an advertisement narrated by Brad Pitt that showed the former vice president meeting with people before the pandemic, shaking hands and leaning in close, meaning as a final message to voters who ‘he would be there with them if he could.
Mr Biden’s zeal for personal relationships was on display to the public after his town hall event on ABC two weeks ago. After the event was over, he put on a mask and stayed for almost another 30 minutes to answer further questions from voters. As cameras continued to roll, her post-town hall conversation was broadcast live in the background as experts offered their final thoughts.
Some skeptics saw the gesture attracting attention. Those who know him say Joe was just Joe.
Mr Biden himself has repeatedly acknowledged how much he fails to speak directly to voters. “I’m a tactile politician,” he said during a virtual fundraiser in August. “I really miss being able to, you know, grab your hand, shake your hand. You can’t do that now.
In the early days of the pandemic, his campaign, aware of its desire to interact directly with people, even put in place a “virtual rope,” before shutting down the idea. He soon discovered that the format wasn’t ideal for someone who would talk all day if he had nowhere else to be.
Recent interactions suggest that when he’s around almost everyone, he almost can’t help it.
During a layover in Chester, Pa. On Monday, in a scene captured live, Mr Biden regaled his followers with a tale about Ireland. As an assistant guided him to a lectern, where he was to deliver remarks, he stopped to speak to several people – Hi, how are you? Happy to see you! – including a man he punched in the arm.
This time, face-to-face meetings seem to be on his schedule. At an event in Broward County, Fla. This month, a photographer took a photo of Mr. Biden holding what appears to be a piece of paper with his personal October 13 schedule. At the bottom is a brief entry: “Photoline with the elect.
Images shared on his campaign’s public Flickr account show him in group photos with supporters and local leaders across the country, Mr Biden often in front, masked and kneeling, a good distance away. A photograph appears to have been taken in a cavernous union hall in Toledo, Ohio. Another was shot dead in Miami, his supporters standing in marked circles on the ground – one flashing a thumbs up – while Mr Biden looks on from behind. Other images reveal group photos in other places he has recently traveled, including Cincinnati, Detroit and Phoenix.
The private photo ops are a symbolic reminder of how much the pandemic changed last year’s campaign: While some of the defining images of the Democratic presidential primary were Elizabeth Warren’s tactile and very public selfie lines, the race took place. now ends with footage of Mr. Biden and his followers snapping into intimate settings that show everyone more than an arm’s length away from each other.
There are, of course, new safety precautions to follow as well.
During a stop in Durham, North Carolina this month, the Biden campaign led attendees to a high school building, handed out additional masks, and asked everyone to stand on pieces of tape stuck to the floor six feet apart, said Jessica Holmes, a candidate for labor commissioner who attended the meeting.
Mr. Biden then entered, circling the circle and speaking to each one individually. When it got to Ms Holmes, she said, she told him that she was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, as was Senator Kamala Harris, its deputy chair. He promised her that he would hire leaders in the “Divine Nine,” a group of historically black sororities and fraternities.
“He said, ‘Well, you know, Jessica, I’m so adamant about the leadership engagement of the African American community, the leadership engagement in the Nine Divines. I’m going to have a Divine Nine office in my White House, ”she recalls. “I said, ‘Can’t wait to visit.’”
At one point, she craned her elbow to be told by someone involved in her campaign that he wasn’t touching anyone because of the coronavirus. Mr. Biden had none of that. “The VP literally crushed them and craned his elbow to me,” she says.
Through it all, Ms Holmes said she was struck by the way he seemed engaged with each person.
“I’m sure his team would have preferred him to move faster,” she said. “It was almost like he had to be pushed around.”
Thomas Kaplan contributed to the reporting.