Chasing Biden on his visit

By Catherine Conlan

Good news! The Chrysler Newport that seemed to have given up the ghost on Labor Day has been revived (thanks to much tinkering and creative vocabulary, and a new timing chain), and was running again just in time for Biden’s recent visit. Not that I was driving it when he was in town — I needed something a little more nimble (the thing is approximately 40 feet long).
Speculation was rampant when the word went around that Biden was going to visit Duluth, and I’ll admit, once it was clear he’d be visiting a union facility, I started getting my hopes up that I could cover it.
After all, a Labor visit, talking about Labor, in a union facility — heck, a Labor newspaper should be there, right?
I’ve reported on lots of campaigns throughout my career, and I get it — there are a lot of moving parts (and egos), a message that everyone is desperate to stick to no matter what, and the sheer logistics of transporting a candidate to different spots quickly and efficiently, no matter the conditions on the ground.
And I certainly wasn’t the only local media outlet to get shut out by the campaign. The Mesabi Tribune got skunked and even the DNT wasn’t allowed to send a photographer. It was clear the national press pool had priority on this one.
So it’s hard not to feel like a snub — of course, it wasn’t like getting an rejection from the Trump campaign — but on the other hand, it makes sense, too. Here in Minnesota, we know Biden is the front-runner. And during the week last week, national polls confirmed it: Biden’s running around 9 points up, generally, depending on the poll you look at. So it makes sense that a campaign would give national media the prime spots to cover his visit, so they could see for themselves the kind of reception he’s getting.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for Biden’s handlers to manage him during a pandemic. He’s an old-fashioned retail politician who thrives on crowds, glad-handing, jokes and instant personal connections. Everyone I talked to remarked on his personal warmth and charisma, even behind a mask. But having to keep Biden from playing to his strengths, and instead putting him on a live-stream in front of a purposefully small crowd, must be frustrating for everyone involved.
(Having a Labor reporter there would have helped, of course. Ahem.)
Holding the event at the Carpenters’ Jerry Alander Training Center was certainly a flex on Congressman Pete Stauber, as the center is located in Hermantown, Stauber’s home town. Interestingly, the Carpenters haven’t made an endorsement in the presidential race, despite most of the Building Trades taking a stand for the clearly union-friendly Biden. Be interesting to know how that all came together.
All in all, it was certainly exciting for Duluth in general and the Labor community in particular to host, however briefly, someone whose love for Labor has been clear his entire career. The national media got a close look at how northern Minnesota feels about a president who has a plan for the region and the nation, and Duluth got a little national love.
I’m hoping the latest poll numbers and response to the visit make it clear that while nothing is over until the votes are counted, Minnesota is not necessarily the battleground state that the national media wants to make it. But if the campaign wants to schedule another visit from someone on the ticket just to make sure…hey, don’t be a stranger!

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