“They can also say, for Democrats who are nervous about it, ‘Hunter’s taken a step to say he won’t be on these boards if the vice president is elected president,’ and they could say, ‘we’ve addressed it and it’s time to move on,’” said Jennifer Palmieri, who was Mrs. Clinton’s communications director in the 2016 presidential campaign. “There are these campaign rituals you have to go through when your campaign does hit a perilous patch like this in order to signal to the press you’re handling it right, and to reassure supporters.”
At the union gathering here on Sunday, Mr. Biden began his remarks by praising Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., for a morning television appearance where he defended “me and my family against these outrageous, lying ads” from Mr. Trump.
“That’s a good man,” he said of Mr. Buttigieg, to applause.
His campaign didn’t respond to several follow-up questions about the younger Mr. Biden’s decision, including about why Hunter Biden didn’t recuse himself earlier.
The last few weeks have been a challenging time for Mr. Biden, aides and allies have said. The Biden family, which is close-knit, has endured painful losses over the years, including the death in 2015 of Mr. Biden’s elder son Beau Biden; Hunter Biden is the former vice president’s only surviving son.
“Before he decided to run, we sat down and had a conversation about how hard it was going to be because we know Donald Trump, we saw what he did in 2016,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware and a close Biden ally. “It’s different when it starts and it’s different when it picks up steam and it’s different when it’s, you know, a direct attack on you and your family.”
But, he said, Mr. Biden is “not going to be surprised” by any attacks on the debate stage on Tuesday, even highly personal ones.
Many Democrats think the Trump children, for their part, warrant tough scrutiny, given their own business dealings overseas.