White House officials would not say when Mr. Biden would take his first domestic trip, but said that a typical presidential travel schedule was on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Certainly, his preference would be to get on a plane and fly around the country, but that’s not the step we’re planning currently,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said during a briefing last month.
Other senior administration officials insisted that Mr. Biden was not grounded and would travel domestically soon, pointing to the fact that he safely made two trips to Georgia during the transition to campaign for Democratic Senate candidates.
Presidential travel is expensive and time-consuming, but it is also essential to the job, former White House officials said.
“It’s critical for people to feel the presence and be aware of the fact that the president took the time to come to the place where they are,” Mr. Podesta said. “One of the things that underlies the deep divisions in the country is people feeling like, ‘You forgot about me.’ Showing up changes that dynamic.”
Mr. Podesta said it would be critical for Mr. Biden to travel after addressing a joint session of Congress this month, even if it meant taking on some health risks. “He’s going to lay down a lot of ideas of what needs to get built and he’s got to go to some places where those things will get built,” he said.
But given the pandemic and the politically fragile moment the country is in, Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, said that staying in Washington more often may work better for Mr. Biden.
“After John Kennedy’s assassination, the country was so agitated that the new President, Lyndon Johnson, made a commitment not to travel abroad for a period of time,” he said. “Although for different reasons, Biden’s staying close to the White House has reminded me of that. I believe that right now, seeing Biden in the State Dining Room, announcing how he’s dealing with one supreme problem after another, is more reassuring than it would be to see him on the road, in the middle of a pandemic, trying to find a crowd to speak to.”
Mr. Biden, however, may not agree once he has been on the plane.