If your strongest argument is, I’m not as bad as that other guy, and that other guy is putting on daily displays of how bad he really is, maybe staying out of sight is a good strategy.
A poll recently cited by Joshua Green of Bloomberg Businessweek focused on likely voters who didn’t like either Donald Trump or Joe Biden and discovered that, if they were voting today, they’d go for Biden by 6 to 1. These so-called “double-haters” are classic swing voters, and both campaigns say they swung strongly for Trump against Hilary Clinton in 2016, even though they didn’t like him.
If the poll is correct, they won’t make that mistake again. Unless too frequent exposure to Biden reminds them why they dislike him and, as they did to Hillary, they lash out in the voting booth.
Overexposure is not something Joe Biden has to worry about, even as the president publicly wonders if his daily on-camera coronavirus briefings “are worth the effort.” Well he might, given that they frequently overexpose his incompetence, inconsistency and borderline insanity.
The mainline pundits, meanwhile are asking the questions few others in America care about: “Where’s Biden?” “How can he run a campaign without campaigning?” “Can all this Zooming and podcasting and drop-ins through the windows of local TV news equal one good campaign clambake and rally?”
It’s still April, for God’s sake; the nominations are sewed up, and something else, coronavirus/Covis-19 is on everyone’s mind. We’re getting long articles detailing Trump’s TV habits, watching and performing, and Biden’s protein shakes and briefings, so real he could use them if he actually was president, whose main virtue is they aren’t about the pandemic.
Two things of value I gleaned: First, Biden may have actually found his “bridge” to the Progressives, and a structure for some profound re-thinking of governance in the post-pandemic world. In one campaign podcast with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Biden wondered whether the coronavirus crisis might cause Americans to rethink the role of government or how they view the nurses, mailmen and grocery store workers they previously overlooked. “It’s kind of like the blinders have been taken off,” Biden said, “and they’ve seen people that they always saw but never understood how consequential they were before.”
Another Biden podcast guest, the Reverend William Barber, urged the presumptive candidate to apply that thinking to healthcare, after which Barber said, “He listened.”
The second insight I gleaned from the recent coverage of Biden is that the candidate who only weeks ago, in the context of – if he were elected – being the oldest president in American history – called himself a “bridge” to a different future. Now he says, that bridge could be two terms long, a decision he won’t make ‘til his presidential year three. May I suggest, that’s a thought the old digital campaigner should keep in his basement.
John Nichols is The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent and host of Next Left, The Nation’s podcast where politics gets personal with rising progressive politicians. He is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, from Nation Books, and co-author, with Robert W. McChesney, of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.