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Biden: Back on the road, maybe

Joe Biden is considering a modified return to the campaign trail after Labor Day, with short, surgical travel to swing states in the closing two months of the race, people familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: As some polls suggest Biden's lead is narrowing, some Democrats worry that President Trump could gain a tactical advantage at crunch time if he's campaigning in person and Biden's only out there virtually.

  • Still, many Biden advisers remain convinced that there's a strategic benefit to drawing a sharp contrast with Trump when it comes to curbing travel and social distancing — as well as a public health benefit.

Driving the news: Biden hinted at his openness in an interview on MSNBC, saying "yes" when asked whether he'd consider visiting Kenosha, Wisconsin, the scene of violent protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

  • “Yes I would consider it,” Biden said. “What I don’t want to do is become part of the problem. If I were president, I would be going.”
  • It was a shift in tone from an interview last week with ABC in which Biden seemed more circumspect and insisted that he could win in November by staying home.
  • “We're going to follow the science, what the scientists tell us,” Biden had said. When Trump travels, Biden said, “People die, people get together, they don't wear masks, they end up getting COVID, they end up dying."

Between the lines: Biden has been saying for months that he'd only travel if it’s medically safe, as he seeks to draw a contrast with Trump, who has addressed rallies during the pandemic and who has had live audiences for Republican National Convention events this week.

  • But Biden campaign officials have long said they would reevaluate their travel posture around Labor Day and let the virus dictate whether and where it’s safe to fly.
  • Biden likely will opt for some short trips — but not like Trump.
  • He also is likely to scrap any potential plans if doctors and scientists advise against them.

Be smart: There isn’t the same grassroots groundswell for Biden to travel to swing states as Trump finds in his own base. Many Democratic activists and lawmakers share Biden’s view that it’s simply too dangerous to gather large crowds with case positivity still so high.

  • “The whole Republican Party is being reckless with their rallies,” said Bill Jacobs, the Democratic Party chairman in Clinton County, Iowa. “Biden could visit, but you’d have to keep the crowd size very small.”
  • “The Biden-Harris campaign is not going to risk spreading COVID-19,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) “The American public appreciates that, it is why he is winning.”

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