What to expect from the Biden campaign after Trump's COVID-19 hospitalization

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The Biden campaign’s new plan after Trump’s diagnosis is the old plan, sources tell me: Protect the candidate. Stay the course. No mistakes.

What to watch: Biden and Harris still plan to fly to Arizona on Thursday, but they're traveling from different locations on separate planes. Biden will head to South Florida for an MSNBC town hall on Monday.

  • The campaign is still preparing for two more presidential debates — but it's in discussions with the Commission on Presidential Debates about health and safety protocols.
  • Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said on ABC's "This Week": "We believe that the debates should go forward as scheduled."

The big picture: Top officials see their spring and summer strategy of limiting Biden’s travel vindicated by events. As of this weekend, they weren't signaling any dramatic final sprint to fill a void left by Trump.

  • That means short, surgical trips, no big rallies, and a strict adherence to state and national COVID-19 guidelines.

Between the lines: Restricted travel doesn’t mean restraining resources. Online cash came rolling in as a backlash to Trump's Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and after the first presidential debate.

  • Now Biden's campaign is planning to pump millions beyond the $280m in TV and online spending announced in early August into local TV media markets.
  • Democrats expect additional big media buys in Texas and Ohio, states that Trump won handily in 2016 but that polls show could now be in reach for Biden.
  • “We would think that an investment of $25m to $30m would get Biden over the top,” Gilberto Hinojosa, Texas’ Democratic Party chairman, told me.
  • “I would love to have him visit, as well,” he said. “But I would rather have the money."

The other side: Trump campaign officials privately admit that his diagnosis has blown up many of their plans in the sprint to November.

  • The Trump campaign was planning to zero in on its "Biden's hiding in the basement" rhetoric for the rest of the month and draw a sharp contrast between the energy seen at Trump's massive rallies and the slimmer crowds at Biden's events.
  • Trump was planning to hold campaign rallies and hobnob with donors in battleground states for the majority of October.
  • "It's OK to press pause for a few days," said Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union. "Now he's got to beat it. … I am praying for him."

But with Trump in quarantine for the foreseeable future, the campaign is now relying on members of the first family — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka, and Eric and Lara Trump — to carry the torch as part of a new "Operation MAGA" campaign launched Saturday.

  • Pence will also ramp up his travel schedule.
  • Pence's in-person events will begin after the vice presidential debate on Wednesday.

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