Mr. Biden, who for years fashioned himself as a “tough on crime” Democrat, played a leading role in the 1994 crime bill. That record has both discomfited advocates of criminal justice reform and other progressives in Mr. Biden’s party, and made it more difficult for Mr. Trump to paint his opponent as an enemy of law enforcement.
At the same time, Mr. Biden has sought to show his commitment to addressing the mistreatment of Black Americans at the hands of the police. On Thursday, his campaign released an ad about policing in which he declares, “Now is the time for racial justice.”
Mr. Biden said he had planned his trip to Wisconsin with input from local and state leaders, and that he had sought advice from members of Congress. As Mr. Biden weighs an accelerated travel schedule after Labor Day weekend, the Wisconsin trip also offered something of a test case for how he will seek to campaign across the country amid a pandemic, with trips planned next week to states including Michigan and Pennsylvania. He generally sought to stay socially distant, though he was spotted shaking hands with a campaign staff member.
Mr. Biden ended his trip with a visit to a Milwaukee suburb on Thursday afternoon for an education-focused stop in a backyard. His arrival surprised neighbors, and hundreds of people flooded the sidewalks and manicured lawns of the quiet, leafy neighborhood and broke out into chants of “Let’s go Joe!” as he left the home.
The earlier church appearance on Thursday was among Mr. Biden’s most sustained, unscripted engagements with voters in months, and there were a few off-key moments.He promised, in a city reeling from shootings, that he would wrap up a tangent about taxes or else someone may “shoot me.” And as he urged a fuller accounting of American history in schools, he asked a room that included many African-Americans, “Did anybody know before what’s recently happened, that Black Wall Street in Oklahoma was burned to the ground?”
But often, he sought to give attendees and viewers encouragement about their efforts to pursue racial justice, sometimes by citing polling showing support for Black Lives Matter despite what he called Mr. Trump’s “rant about, you know, law and order.” And he appeared to invoke a spate of recent positive polling to suggest that Mr. Trump’s messaging on “law and order” was not breaking through.