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Biden Names Two New Advisers as Convention Decision Looms

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has chosen two Democratic strategists to lead his preparations for the party’s summer nominating convention, a traditionally crucial event for a presidential campaign that is now enveloped in uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Biden’s campaign is designating Addisu Demissie, a veteran Democratic strategist who managed Senator Cory Booker’s presidential campaign, as a senior adviser responsible for coordinating the convention. It is also naming Lindsay Holst, who was Mr. Biden’s digital director when he was vice president, to lead special projects for the convention, including its digital side, according to people familiar with the appointments.

The selection of two seasoned political aides for the convention-planning jobs underscores the stakes for Mr. Biden in orchestrating a successful event in August despite extraordinary public-health challenges. The event, which is slated to take place in Milwaukee, has already been pushed back to August from July because of the pandemic, and it is not clear what kinds of restrictions on public gatherings may still be in place in late summer.

Mr. Biden and other senior Democrats, including Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, have raised the possibility that they may have to hold an entirely virtual convention, or some form of hybrid event that is largely online but has some in-person components.

President Trump is also wrestling with the practical difficulties of holding a convention under the circumstances, and he and his political advisers have been engaged in a tense negotiation with Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, over whether the state will consider it safe to hold an August gathering in Charlotte. Mr. Trump has said he may move his party’s convention to another state if Mr. Cooper does not provide the assurances his campaign is seeking.

The widespread demonstrations against police brutality and the scenes of street violence in many American cities over the last week could present an additional challenge for convention organizers who are weighing how — and whether — to stage politically sensitive mass gatherings during a viral outbreak.

Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, said in a statement that the two new advisers would “help lead this first of its kind convention, which is part of our broader engagement with the American people.”

“It will be an opportunity to have maximum impact with voters across the country and be the most inclusive convention in our history,” she said.

The addition of Mr. Demissie and Ms. Holst to the Biden campaign indicates that Democratic efforts to design a convention under those trying conditions are advancing to a new stage. Both worked on one or both of the Obama-Biden campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

Mr. Demissie led multiple winning statewide campaigns, steering Mr. Booker’s election to the Senate in 2013 and serving as campaign manager to Gavin Newsom during his successful run for California governor in 2018, before helming Mr. Booker’s presidential effort. A co-founder of the political consulting firm 50+1 Strategies, Mr. Demissie served in 2016 as the director of national voter outreach and mobilization for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

He is one of a few former senior aides to Mr. Biden’s onetime Democratic primary opponents who have joined up with Mr. Biden for the general election; chief among them is Ms. O’Malley Dillon, who managed Beto O’Rourke’s primary campaign before becoming Mr. Biden’s campaign manager in March.

Ms. Holst served in President Barack Obama’s White House and at the Democratic National Committee during the administration, starting out on the digital team at the D.N.C. during the 2010 election and then working on the president’s re-election campaign. She became Mr. Biden’s digital director during the second term.

Her appointment to a senior role in the campaign further confirms that Mr. Biden’s team is exploring alternatives to a traditional nominating convention, with the usual scenes of thousands of delegates, activists and political donors cheering on the party’s presidential ticket from the floor of an arena somewhere in a swing state.

Under normal circumstances, the political conventions are distinctive opportunities for both parties to showcase their presidential nominees, introduce new running mates and deliver emphatic and meticulously staged appeals to general-election voters on prime-time television.

Without the benefit of all the usual pageantry, and with the electorate in a decidedly downbeat mood, the conventions could become more muted affairs than in the past.

But the severity of the country’s challenges, and the general sense that the nation is confronting a decision of extraordinary weight in November, could also draw unusual attention to conventions that in most years are largely predictable affairs despite the parties’ best efforts to provide sizzle.

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