“May I meet some of your employees and see your kitchen?” Dr. Jill Biden asked during a meet and greet at the restaurant Tamales by Las Casita in Denver on Tuesday.
It’s not an unusual question for a political surrogate to ask during a campaign stop. What was unusual was that Biden was making this request from the other end of a Zoom call. Paula Sandoval, former state lawmaker and co-owner of the small, family-run small business, gave Biden a virtual tour and introduced her to some of her employees.
Yes, Biden’s first campaign trip to Colorado since her husband Joe Biden locked up the Democratic nomination was a virtual one; she never actually set foot in the state. It’s a taste of what politically-minded Coloradans can expect from campaigns this season, as candidates try to stoke their supporters’ enthusiasm while maintaining social distance due to COVID-19.
The events Biden participated in were typical of a presidential campaign: the restaurant meet-and-greet, roundtables, even a campaign rally-like event. The latter came complete with introductions from freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, who flipped a Republican seat in 2018, and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is hoping to snag the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and face off against vulnerable GOP Sen. Cory Gardner this fall.
Biden's message was also typical of a campaign surrogate.
“I want you to know that my husband is a great listener, and he will hear you,” Biden told local Latina leaders at a roundtable event. “I know that he has your support, but you have his.”
In response to Biden's virtual visit, President Trump's Colorado campaign said it has long been active in the state.
"Trump Victory has maintained a consistent presence over multiple cycles," Kyle Kohli, the Republican National Committee's Colorado spokesman, said in a statement. "Since going virtual in March our team has contacted over 1 million Coloradans, including over 370,000 in the last week alone. Colorado Republicans are fired up and President Trump’s unmatched record of America First policies will be the reason voters back his reelection this November.”
Coronavirus upends traditional campaigning
While the campaign tried to make each stop as true to regular campaign events as possible, Biden wasn’t able to mingle with voters, answer questions from people in the crowds or deal directly with press.
“I’m so pleased to be with you here today, even if I can’t actually be there in Colorado Springs with you,” she told military spouses at another roundtable event.
It was an acknowledgment of how the coronavirus pandemic has upended the campaign trail.
Biden noted she comes from a military family during the roundtable, and discussed deployments, military moves and how their families are coping with the changes that coronavirus has brought.
Yvonne Coombes, a 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, joined the call. She shared how she was working to put some “fun and sunshine” out into the world during the pandemic by starting a dress-up at home challenge while doing everyday activities.
“It’s really about not making light of the situation, but finding the light in the situation,” she told Biden.
For her part, Biden told the spouses that if her husband becomes president “we will have your backs.”
Should she become the next First Lady, Biden said she would focus on military families and would restart the Joining Forces Initiative, an idea that sprang from a meeting she had at Fort Carson during the Obama administration. The former educator said her other priorities would be debt-free community college education and fighting cancer.
The Bidens’ eldest son, Beau Biden, was deployed to Iraq with the Delaware National Guard. He later died from brain cancer in 2015.
Editor's Note: this story has been updated to include remarks from the Colorado arm of the RNC.