Trump and Biden both prioritize North Carolina, but use different playbooks amid pandemic

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Trump campaign plans another NC visit, but Biden camp confident voters might not care
Rick Klein, Political Director at ABC News, says traditional campaign visits are key to controlling the narrative and rousing the base. In COVID-19, the playbooks may need updates,

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WTVD) -- If North Carolina had a travel rewards program, President Donald Trump would have earned elite status.

During the COVID-19 pandemic however, former Vice President Joe Biden is banking on that status backfiring with North Carolina voters as both the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise.

"We know a couple of states are going to be decided by 10,000 votes, 20,000 votes, and that could be enough that are impacted by a visit," Rick Klein, ABC News Political Director, said. "But I think more than that, it's about dominating a narrative. If you can do that in more states than not, then that's the best shot you give yourself."

For President Trump, dominating a narrative means in-person visits with potentially large crowds, limited social distancing and sporadic mask wearing among supporters (attendees are subject to temperature checks and highly encouraged to wear face coverings). The Commander in Chief, now vying for a second term, will return to the Tar Heel State for a campaign speech in Winston-Salem on Tuesday. The visit will be his sixth this year and 13th overall since his inauguration in 2017.

"It's always about the people with this president," Hogan Gidley, Trump 2020 national press secretary, said. "What's the difference between meeting some of your friends for coffee over Zoom as opposed to meeting them for coffee in real life in person? It's a completely different feel for it."

Trump's sons, Eric and Donald Jr., will also be the keynote speakers at campaign events in High Point and Hendersonville, respectively.

"It's important to get out. It's important to have those conversations candidly," Hogan said. "They'll take a lot of different forms and a lot of different shapes. If you're concerned that this president doesn't know enough about production or performance, let me just push back. He had the number one show on NBC for a decade. He gets how to draw people in regardless of the venue and he'll do that a bunch of times between now and then."

The President's opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has not visited the state since February 29, three days before the Super Tuesday primary. Still, the campaign has launched an aggressive effort in the state by investing millions of dollars in advertisements airing on televisions across the state and popping up online. Some of Biden's high profile supporters are also virtually attending events across the state, including his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have joined a discussion with educators in Guilford County.

To counter Trump's visit on Tuesday, Stacey Abrams will headline a virtual rally alongside leaders from across North Carolina, including NC Senator Jeff Jackson and Former Congresswoman Eva Clayton.

"I think Joe Biden not only has a strong presence, but he's doing it in a way that respects the health of our people and underscores the message that we have to get a hold for the pandemic and hold Trump accountable for his failure to deal with it," Rep. David Price (D-North Carolina) said. "We're going to have a very intense campaign here for the next two months and we're going to reach every corner of this state and we're going to do it in unconventional ways."

In an exclusive interview with ABC11, Biden promised he'd visit in person but within the confines of COVID-19 restrictions.

"The American people are looking for responsible leadership on COVID," Biden said. "They shared sacrifices on weddings, funerals, family events. They should expect the same responsibility from a presidential candidate or a president."