The theory of Biden’s case has always been that the coronavirus and the economy are the central concerns for voters, and they don’t see any reason to deviate from those themes now. “The narratives out there that this is going to dominate what voters want their presidential candidates to talk about—I think that is a real big misread,” says John Anzalone, a Biden campaign pollster. “Sixty-something percent of people still are very concerned about COVID and concerned about the economy. This has been an incredibly stable race. I still think you’re going to see a plurality of people believe that this issue makes no difference in how they would vote. And that the handling of COVID, the economy, and the recovery, and health care are going to still be the drivers.”
That steady focus fits with Biden’s personality, and with his greatest appeal against Trump: his calm and his attention to substance. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were the angry candidates; Biden isn’t about to change what won him the Democratic primary, and he isn’t about to alienate moderates by coming out in favor of court packing. The risks are that, with so much at stake and emotions so high, Biden’s low-key approach looks complacent and his message gets drowned out. That’s why he delivered a forceful speech on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia calling on Senate Republicans to hold off confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee (highly unlikely then, moot now). The more important element of Biden’s remarks, though, was his attempt to fold the nomination fight into one of his core arguments, highlighting how Trump and Republicans want to strip health care from Americans even as the pandemic death toll in the U.S. has climbed to more than 200,000.