- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden’s team is planning to resume major in-person canvassing efforts in battleground states starting this weekend, the campaign said Thursday, as they ramp up their political machine with about a month to go until Election Day.

The move marks a big strategic reversal for the campaign, which has previously sworn off in-person politicking during the coronavirus pandemic and downplayed the value of traditional efforts like door-knocking.

Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said their voter contact operation, which involves phone calls, texting, and online messaging, has been “thriving.”

“We’re now expanding on our strategy in a targeted way that puts the safety of communities first and foremost and helps us mobilize voters who are harder to reach by phone now that we’re in the final stretch and now that Americans are fully dialed-in and ready to make their voices heard,” she said.

The campaign is supposed to launch an in-person canvassing effort this weekend with volunteers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire and Nevada. Other states are expected to see activity next week.

Participating volunteers are supposed to be trained on COVID-19 safety measures. They’re also supposed to get temperature checks and receive personal protective equipment like masks before venturing out into the field.

The campaign is planning to send text messages before volunteers enter a neighborhood to give people a heads up that there might be a knock on their door.

The Associated Press first reported the news.

Just weeks ago, Ms. O’Malley Dillon had downplayed the value of in-person politicking.

“While you might hear our opponent spend a lot of time talking about the millions of door knocks or attempts that they’re making week to week, those metrics don’t have any impact on reaching voters,” she told reporters. “Our metric of success, the numbers we look at and use, are conversations.”

Some down-ballot Democratic candidates had already broken from the Biden camp’s strategy, fearful of being outnumbered on the ground by the GOP.

Mr. Trump’s team had returned to the field over the summer and has been pushing to register voters and persuade people who are on the fence.

The Trump campaign said the Biden team’s shift is hypocritical, given Democrats’ criticism of the president for holding massive in-person rallies during the pandemic and their previous criticism of the GOP for conducting in-person canvassing efforts.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh questioned what changed after the Biden campaign had previously said door-knocking was both unsafe and ineffective.

“They know they’re being hopelessly outworked on the ground and downballot Democrats in key states have been freaking out about it,” Mr. Murtaugh tweeted.

He said Mr. Trump’s 2.3 million volunteers have made more than 116 million voter contacts.

Christopher Devine, a political science professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said in-person canvassing and advocacy efforts are crucial elements of traditional campaigning.

“I suspect, based on what we know, that this is going to be helpful to the Biden campaign as far as getting people out to vote,” Mr. Devine said. “The question might be are they able to maintain a consistent message on respecting health requirements and taking precautions in that regard. They don’t want to go all out in doing this and look hypocritical in their stance on levels of in-person contact.”

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