Traveling with Joe Biden’s press corps shows how the campaign juggles an intense focus on protecting his health, with an imperative to keep the coronavirus at the top of voters’ minds.
Driving the news: I got to see this firsthand on Friday, when it was Axios’ turn to serve as the print pooler for his trip to Minnesota. The timing meant I also happened to be in the bubble when Biden learned of and reacted to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In the air: The Gulfstream IV that flew Biden to Duluth, Minnesota, had an air cabin refresh rate of three minutes.
- There were only 11 passengers in the main cabin, with a total capacity of 16.
- On board, everyone was required to wear an N95 mask.
- All staff and security in close proximity to Biden are tested regularly.
The press: Instead of dozens of reporters crowded in the back of a candidate’s plane, the rotating press pool, which shares its reporting with other news organizations, traveled in a separate plane.
- For the 2½-hour flight to Duluth, 12 of us were spread out in a 36-seat Embraer 135, giving everyone their own row.
- Reporters took temperature tests before boarding a press bus in the morning.
On the ground: Tape marked up the shop floor, letting press, carpenters and the candidate know where they could go. “I want to stand on my x,” Biden said at one point.
- The shop was cleaned by multiple crews, with at least two sanitizing sessions.
- Chairs for reporters were encircled by plastic rings, twice the size of hula hoops.
- But there wasn’t much social distancing during a tarmac gaggle, with reporters elbow-to-elbow together, straining to hear Biden through his mask over the jet engines.
Why it matters: Biden has staked his campaign on how he would have handled COVID-19 differently than President Trump, and he makes a point of strictly adhering to CDC safety protocols and individual state guidelines.
- The mask is more than cosmetic for Biden: When his cloth mask kept slipping down his nose, he excused himself and changed to a surgical one.
Between the lines: A critique of Biden’s social distancing on the campaign trail has been that it minimizes his interactions with the press corps.
- For Biden’s statement on RBG, advance staff asked the press to back up more than usual, so that he could speak with his mask off.
Read More: How the Biden campaign protects the candidate’s health on the campaign trail