“Let’s finish strong,” Joe Biden exhorted followers on Twitter this morning. Finishing strong, in this instance, means spending four of the last 15 days before Election Day off the campaign trail. CBS’ Ed O’Keefe reported yesterday morning that Biden won’t be seen until Thursday night’s debate, taking rope-a-dope to an extreme:
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, tell us about we just heard– what we just there. I mean, when we look at Joe Biden’s schedule, we didn’t see him campaign yesterday. We will see him today. What is his strategy? Because President Trump clearly feels he needs to be out and very visible.
ED O’KEEFE: And at this point, the Biden campaign doesn’t feel that way much at all. He’s– he’s in North Carolina today. The Tar Heel state has begun its early voting. This is a state that the Biden campaign believes, hopes they can take back. But they look at the same kind of polling we do, state by state surveys. Those are the only ones that matter at this point. Don’t worry about national horse race numbers. Look at those state by state numbers. They see single-digit advantages, as we do, for Biden. And they worry that if they can’t keep their base motivated, if they can’t keep convincing people to show up, whether it’s earlier on the day off they’re going to be in trouble. This week is mostly about the big prep. He will not be seen again after today until Thursday night in Nashville at that next debate. So, they are going to keep him focused on that. That’s a signal that they believe this is still a very big opportunity for them to provide one last big contrast with the President and that they have to prepare him for potential attacks from the President. The other thing they’re going to continue to do is spend the record sums of money they’ve raised.
There isn’t any reason to pull a candidate off the trail for four full days for debate prep. Biden’s been around for forty-seven years in Washington; if he’s not prepared to debate issues by now, a month of debate prep wouldn’t help. What presidential candidate in history left the campaign trail in the general election as often as Biden has? Say what you want about Hillary Clinton’s misbegotten campaign strategy, but she wasn’t calling 9 am lids and disappearing for days just to do debate prep in the last two weeks of the contest. Neither is Donald Trump.
This isn’t about “finishing strong.” It’s part of Biden’s rope-a-dope strategy to keep the focus off of himself and his party’s increasingly radical policies, and instead firmly on Trump’s character. To some extent, all re-election contests end up being referendums on the incumbents, but usually the other candidate puts some effort into campaigning. Biden’s betting the house on a basement strategy with no ground game and nothing but a blizzard of TV and radio advertising. He’s not even bothering to make a case for himself, but instead only for removing Trump no matter what follows him.
Could it work? It might, but it would be one of the most cynical presidential campaigns in history. It requires everyone to ignore the fact that Biden wants everyone else to “finish strong” while he naps in his basement. That may be many things, but leadership it ain’t.