He’s stuck in the basement of his home in Wilmington, Del., unable to engage in traditional campaigning, soak up the cheers of raucous rally crowds or impress audiences with knowledgeable and insightful policy pronouncements.
In addition to the frustrations of home confinement, former Vice President Joe Biden is tormented daily by published and broadcast reports suggesting he’s been weakened and should stand down rather than risk losing to President Trump.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck and forced a near halt to every phase of American life, political activity was an immediate casualty. Barnstorming national tours, television coverage of adoring crowds and daily newspaper dispatches from the campaign press plane vanished.
When the country will re-open and what it will look like when it does is unclear. A vacuum has been created and its impossible to control what rushes in to fill it.
- Biden is distrusted by left wing progressives who remain bitter over the loss of Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. They don’t believe Biden will be the keeper of the progressive flame, but will extinguish it in the name of political expediency.
- Biden’s debate and television interview performances have been uneven. He often appeared befuddled and incapable of arranging his thoughts crisply and concisely. He’s also been under siege since allegations of sexual assault were lodged against him by a former female staffer from a 1993 incident in a Senate office building.
- Conflict of interest accusations remain unresolved concerning the appointment of his son, Hunter, to a $50,000 a month seat on the board of directors of an energy company in Ukraine while the elder Biden served as the Obama Administration’s point man on dealing with that nation.
He has denied the sexual assault accusations lodged by Tara Reade but the campaign was knocked off balance and it’s dominated media coverage. Howls of Democratic hypocrisy erupted following Reade’s allegations. Critics gleefully recounted the merciless attacks on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he stood accused of assaulting a high school classmate.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
After Sanders abandoned his campaign, the party establishment was encouraged by the prospect of a unified party closing ranks and erasing its 2016 the nightmare.
Biden has given no indication he’s considering stepping aside and, in the absence of an earthquake-like revelation, he’ll tough it out, hoping normalcy will be restored and he’ll return to the press the flesh campaign style that’s always served him well.
It is his third attempt at the presidency and, at age 77, his last. He hasn’t yet amassed the delegate majority to assure his nomination but its within his grasp. Its highly unlikely the convention will be stampeded into choosing someone else.
With the awesome power of incumbency at his disposal, Trump confronts none of Biden’s problems. He towers over the political landscape and controls the daily news cycle. Where he goes, the media follows. When he tweets, the media chases his comments.
In the Real Clear Politics national average, Biden enjoys a four-point lead over Trump - slim and close to the margin of error - but an edge nonetheless. Make no mistake, it’s a race he can win.
Trump’s response to the pandemic has often been erratic, including rambling two-hour news conferences crammed with misinformation, attacks on the media, and impossibly optimistic predictions about national recovery. The economy has been devastated, unemployment is the highest since the Great Depression, and there is a growing restlessness verging on rebellion over the prolonged lockdown.
Whether Trump can weather this storm and whether Biden can take advantage of it remains to be seen.
Biden must exercise caution and avoid one of the more egregious errors committed by Clinton - a belief the American people wouldn’t take Trump seriously and he’d self-destruct. Today, Trump is tweeting from the White House while Clinton communicates with her followers from somewhere in Westchester County, N. Y.
Biden would prefer to be free from his basement.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.