Washington — Joe Biden cast doubt on the Democratic National Convention scheduled for July taking place as planned, suggesting the event may have to be rescheduled as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday night, Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, was asked whether he could imagine the gathering of thousands of Democrats convening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in just over three months.
"It's hard to envision that," Biden said. "Again, we should listen to the scientists."
The former vice president noted that the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to kick off July 13, is being held early due to the Tokyo Olympics. But the Summer Games, which were supposed to begin July 24, were postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"There's more time now," Biden said. "We ought to be able to do what we were able to do in the middle of a Civil War all the way through to World War II, have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections and still have public safety, and we're able to do both."
The Republican National Convention will begin August 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese said in a statement the committee is continuing to put in place plans for the convention and "will balance protecting the health and well-being of convention attendees and our host city with our responsibility to deliver this historic and critical occasion."
"These challenging times require us to be deeply thoughtful about the important and unprecedented moment in which we're living," he said. "Providing an opportunity for our candidate to reaffirm our democratic values, unify the party and share his vision for a safer and stronger future for our country has never before felt more important."
Biden also said elections going forward "may have to be different" and predicted an uptick in absentee ballots as Americans limit their social interactions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. He also urged secretaries of state nationwide to start looking into and planning for secure, remote voting.
"This is about making sure that we're able to conduct our democracy while we're dealing with a pandemic. We can do both," Biden said. "It may mean a difference in the way we do it. It may mean that social distancing doesn't get it done. It may mean that you have a circumstance where you have drive-in voting, literally. You pull up and you vote. There's a lot of ways to do it, but you should be talking about it now."
The former vice president said there was "no rationale for eliminating or delaying the election."
The coronavirus has brought life in the U.S. to a grinding halt and upended the 2020 presidential election, as numerous states have postponed their primaries to allow for social distancing. While Biden leads Bernie Sanders in the national delegate race, Sanders said Monday he believes he still has "admittedly a narrow path" to securing the Democratic presidential nomination.
Both Biden and Sanders are at their respective homes in Delaware and Vermont but have been holding virtual events to reach supporters.
Biden also told MSNBC he is preparing to launch an organization by mid-April to run background checks on prospective running mates and is compiling a list of vice presidential picks.
That list already includes Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has gained nationwide attention for her leadership in responses to the coronavirus, Biden said.
"She made the list, in my mind, two months ago," he told MSNBC, adding the list will include between six and 10 names.
Biden has vowed to select a woman as his running mate.
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