After pandemic delay, Biden launching in-person canvassing

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters on the platform outside the Amtrak's Greensburg Train Station, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Greensburg, Pa. Biden is on a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania today. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

NEW YORK – After months of avoiding direct contact with voters because of the pandemic, Joe Biden's campaign is about to launch door-to-door canvassing across several battleground states.

The decision comes amid growing concern from Democratic officials on the ground in key states who fear that Biden has been giving a significant advantage to President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, who have been aggressively courting voters at their doorsteps for months. The reversal also reflects a sense of rising urgency as polls tighten just a month before Election Day.

Biden’s campaign, which detailed the new effort to The Associated Press, insists that its existing phone and online voter outreach is effective. The new plans will build upon what's already in place, not replace it.

“Our voter contact operation is the most innovative and technologically advanced of any presidential campaign in history, and it has been thriving in this unprecedented environment," Biden campaign manager Jenn O'Malley Dillon said.

"We’re now expanding on our strategy in a targeted way that puts the safety of communities first and foremost and helps us mobilize voters who are harder to reach by phone now that we’re in the final stretch — and now that Americans are fully dialed-in and ready to make their voices heard.”

Biden this weekend will dispatch several hundred newly trained volunteers to engage voters across Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. The effort, focusing on voters who are considered difficult to reach by phone, is expected to spread quickly into several more battleground states and include many more volunteers.

Campaign officials and volunteers acknowledge their virtual-contact strategy had holes they're hoping to fill with in-person conversations.

“It’s just harder and harder to get people on the phone,” said Patrick Sullivan, a Biden volunteer who lives in suburban Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “So being able to go to someone's door and talk to them makes a big difference.”