We are just a few days out from the start of the Democratic National Convention — which, in case you needed reminding, is not really convening in any grand way in Milwaukee. The Republicans seem poised to follow suit, with the ceremonies in North Carolina vastly scaled back.
In another lifetime, political reporters would be packing their finest and hopping on planes to crisscross the country. Even amid a different reality now, one thing is still happening: We are still trying to make sense of the political realities on the ground.
Several of my colleagues began their own road trips this week, heading to Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Delaware. I spoke to them about what they are seeing. (As always, this conversation — conducted via text — has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Jenny: Each of you are getting started on road trips. Can you tell us about where you are going and why? And if I had asked you six months ago what you expected to be doing the week before the D.N.C., how would you have answered?
Reid Epstein: I’m driving somewhere between Washington and Pittsburgh on a road trip to do some reporting in Western Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio. Six months ago, I would have said that I was super excited about going to Milwaukee, a place where I started my journalism career and have a lot of friends. Speaking for me, it’s just so sad and disappointing that we’re all going to spend next week watching the convention at home and not indulging in the bars and restaurants of Wisconsin.
Astead Herndon: Hey all! I’m headed to the airport soon — masked up and everything. I’m headed to Minneapolis for a couple reasons. There’s Ilhan Omar’s primary tomorrow, but we’ll also be looking at a swing district and the aftermath of the George Floyd protests there. And to the D.N.C. question, I’m still going! Headed to Milwaukee after Minneapolis. Though I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing. I’m kind of expecting it to be like that last scene of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” where Will Smith is standing in an empty house after everyone left.
Reid: Sounds like Astead is going to be the fresh prince of Whitefish Bay.
Astead: The prince of Pewaukee.
Katie Glueck: Tom Kaplan and I have headed down to Delaware to glean all we can about former Vice President Joe Biden’s own vice-presidential pick, a decision he is expected to make in coming days. Any V.P. or Wilmington tips welcome! Headed into the D.N.C. under normal circumstances, I would have been en route to Milwaukee, where Biden was expected to accept the nomination he’s been vying for on and off for decades. My guess is that next week I’ll be back in Delaware again — his home state, where he is expected to speak — instead.
Jenny: Can you tell us about what you’re looking for when you go to your respective spots?
Reid: I’m interested in how the trends of the post-2016 elections are playing out in this presidential race. Since Trump was elected, the shift in American politics has all been in the same direction. The big question is: Will that continue through November?
Thomas Kaplan: Hi from Wilmington! We’re looking for any glimpse of the future Democratic ticket. Or maybe a passing glimpse at Biden’s motorcade. But so far, all we’ve seen are the trees near Biden’s house. They are nice trees, at least.
Jenny: Traveling is obviously harder in this moment, and so is talking to voters. Can you talk about how you navigate that with people you come into contact with?
Reid: This is actually my first reporting trip since March, and I noticed when I pulled a notebook out of my bag that said “Bernie Sanders trip March 9 and 10,” so yeah, I think we’re going figure it out. I have a mask and I’m going to keep my sunglasses on, and I probably don’t need the gloves, I suspect, since I’m going be sitting down and talking to some people in a public park. But we will find out.
The whole process is just so different from what we normally do. For as long as I’ve covered politics and presidential campaigns, there’s been a process of going out and talking to voters either in advance or stopping in to coffee shops or meeting people outside of supermarkets. And all of that feels sort of forbidden and dangerous in this moment, since I don’t don’t get the sense that people want to talk to a stranger who approaches them in a mask while they’re loading groceries into their car.
We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at email@example.com.
Is Ilhan Omar in trouble?
It was long thought that Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan was the only member of the so-called squad who would face a difficult re-election. But by the time Ms. Tlaib cruised to victory last week, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota might have eclipsed her. That’s because Ms. Omar is facing a well-funded challenger who has garnered national attention.
Ms. Omar, an unabashed progressive who has at times run afoul of her own party leadership, got the support of House Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her re-election efforts. Her opponent Antone Melton-Meaux, however, has tried to cast her as a national lightning rod too controversial for the district. Mr. Melton-Meaux, who has secured more than $4 million for his campaign, outraised Ms. Omar, sending alarm bells across the country that the race could be closer than expected.
The race has also been upended by the killing of George Floyd, the Black man whose death in the custody of Minneapolis police ignited protests across the country. Ms. Omar has been a leading voice in advocating for systemic changes such as restructuring the police department, while her opponents have focused efforts on more incremental reforms. More than a referendum on Ms. Omar, the election could signal the electorates’ embrace of a path forward after a tumultuous summer.
— Astead W. Herndon
Today we learned a new word in German: Freikorperkultur, a movement meaning “free body culture.” You can see one example with a wild boar here.
Thanks for reading. On Politics is your guide to the political news cycle, delivering clarity from the chaos.
On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.
Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.