Joseph R. Biden is assuming a bigger presence on the campaign trail, shifting away from his basement-dwelling strategy in a tightening race with President Trump roughly two months from Election Day.
Mr. Biden on Wednesday fielded reporters’ questions for the first time in weeks and announced plans to travel to riot-scarred Kenosha, Wisconsin, although he said a day earlier that visiting there would add to the turmoil.
It marked a move away from the cautious approach that he had embraced for months and for some smacked of a candidate going on defense.
“It appears that the RNC messaging — softer image for Trump and ‘law and order’ — has resonated somewhat,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Biden is now countering that. But obviously, since he just started, we can’t know if it is working yet.”
Bookies took note, according to betting aggregators at US-Bookies.com who said Wednesday that for the first time since early June, Mr. Trump is the favorite to win a second four-year term.
A new CNN poll, however, showed Mr. Biden maintaining a 51%-43% lead over Mr. Trump among registered voters in the wake of the dueling party conventions.
Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee also announced they raised a record-breaking $364 million in August.
The political crosswinds have added more intrigue to a coronavirus-riddled contest and left the campaigns and the rest of the political world trying to decipher what’s up and what’s down.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has always been eager to return to traditional campaign mode and hold rallies with his fervent supporters.
He has ridiculed Mr. Biden’s low-profile approach and goaded him to be more visible, confident the former vice president will crack under brighter lights.
Before an event Wednesday in North Carolina, Mr. Trump dubbed the Democratic presidential nominee “Joe Hiden.”
“Joe Biden is a Low Energy Candidate the likes of which we have never seen before,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “The last thing our country needs is a Low Energy Individual, especially when surrounded by High Energy Chess Players scattered all over the world.”
The Republican warned: “He’s back in his basement now - no schedule!”
Mr. Biden was back in Delaware, where he delivered remarks panning Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response.
He said the administration left teachers, students and parents in the lurch as the new school year began.
Mr. Trump was more focused on “whipping up fear and division” and “inciting fear and violence in the streets” than helping schools, Mr. Biden said.
“Get off Twitter and start talking with congressional leaders of both parties,” he said. “You always talk about your ability to negotiate. Negotiate a deal. A deal for somebody other than yourself.”
Mr. Biden spent most of the last few months huddled in his Delaware home, citing concerns over COVID-19 as the reason for his low-profile campaign.
The approach worked, according to polls that showed him leading the race for months.
But Mr. Trump and his allies say that the momentum is starting to swing following the Republican National Convention, where the GOP showcased Mr. Trump’s softer side and cast Mr. Biden as a fake Catholic and a far-left sympathizer.
They painted the race as a contest between a “law and order” candidate in Mr. Trump and a far-left sympathizer in Mr. Biden who is unwilling to condemn the violence and destruction during the protests over police shootings of African Americans.
It is part of a plan to make inroads with suburban voters, according to political observers, and there are some signs Mr. Trump is on the rise.
Alex Donohue, a US-Bookies political betting analyst, said bookies now have Mr. Trump as a -120 favorite to win, versus -100 odds for Mr. Biden.
“Trump has completed a remarkable comeback to reclaim his position as the favorite to win the U.S. election again, as markets suggested that Biden was more likely to win ahead of the conventions,” Mr. Donahue said. “However, convention season saw Trump receive a boost in the odds, while Biden’s took a hit.
“With two months to go, Trump is in a prime position to remain in the White House for four more years,” he said.
Mr. Biden’s allies say the more time Mr. Biden spends on the campaign trail the better off he will be because it will allow voters to see how different he is from the sitting president.
“It really is not a change in strategy,” said Jon Cooper, a leading Biden supporter. “From Day One, there was a recognition that Joe needs to get out, hit some battleground states, and meet with voters. I think he is doing that now because the proper COVID protocols have been put into place.”
Mr. Cooper said he doesn’t think the uptick in attacks from Mr. Trump and his allies, or the GOP convention, had any bearing on the decision to spend more time in key states.
“I think Trump’s effort to appeal to suburban voters will fall flat,” he said.
Mr. Biden told reporters Wednesday he’s been chomping at the bit to spend more time with voters but said his chief priority is making sure he doesn’t expose more people to COVID-19.
Mr. Biden said his scheduled trip to Kenosha Thursday will provide him with a chance to help bring the community together and heal following protests that led to violence, looting and the torching of buildings.
“I would like to get out more, but I think a president has the responsibility to set examples — set the right example for how to go out,” he said.