The only consistent strategy we’ve seen out of Team Biden this summer seems to be a plan to keep him in his basement for as long as possible, not have him answer too many questions, and by all means, do not debate Donald Trump. While sort of painfully obvious and embarrassing, you can understand why they might want to stick to that plan given some of Joe’s “uneven” performances so far (to put it kindly). But not everyone is happy about it. There are Democrats out there who are feeling the pressure to get some excitement ramped up in the hopes that it will have helpful effects further down the ballot. The Washington Post looks at a couple of people in this category this week, including one state representative from Pennsylvania.
In the states that will likely decide the presidential election, President Trump is everywhere. Discussion of his presidency and the actions of his administration — often critical — fill social media feeds, newscasts, letters-to-the-editor pages and socially distanced end-of-the-driveway conversations. For months, his campaign ads dominated the airwaves. His name decorates signs and flags hung on barns, boats and retirement community golf carts.
That has not necessarily helped Trump, who trails former vice president Joe Biden in almost all key states. Yet to some of Biden’s supporters, Trump’s continuing dominance is a warning sign. They are lobbying for Biden to take a more aggressive stance, worried that despite his seeming advantage he has failed so far to persuade people to vote for him — not simply against Trump.
“I want to see Democrats doing more to get one another excited for this race,” said Pennsylvania state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D), whose Erie County district split its vote in 2016, siding with him and Trump. “I want some more movement up here; I want a presence up here. I think that’s really needed. It’s needed now more than ever.”
These complaints seem to be largely coming from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, all states that Biden badly needs but Trump snagged in 2016. Even if they can’t safely get Biden to travel to see them in person, they would like more targeted “virtual” town halls and meetings to drive up the Democrats’ level of support, both for himself and the local candidates. But by all reports, they’re not getting it.
Is anyone really surprised? Biden barely does any remote interviews with major networks. He seems to leave his home under only the direst circumstances and most of what we hear from him comes in the form of prerecorded video announcements where he can read off of a teleprompter and have unlimited takes while filming. Their entire strategy seems to be one of hoping that Donald Trump will sink his own ship and let Joe coast across the finish line with the least risk of blowing it.
The state and local Democrats pushing for more from Biden may be exhibiting some behavior that’s both selfish and potentially foolish. First of all, Biden is probably in one of the highest-risk categories you can name in terms of COVID-19. If they send him out on the trail too much and he winds up getting exposed despite all the precautions they would take, his odds of making it to election day are probably worse than your average person’s. And putting someone else on the ballot at that late stage would be a logistical nightmare for his party.
But even if everything was fine and dandy on the pandemic front, do they really want Biden out there campaigning? Before he was locked down for the pandemic we all watched one incident after another where he seemed to either forget where he was or struggle to remember what he’d been saying only a moment before. This phenomenon seemed to be even worse in the evening. Can you imagine him doing that on the stump with all of the cameras rolling? Or worse, on the debate stage facing off with Trump?
Biden is likely to remain in hiding for as long as he can possibly get away with it. And if there’s any way his team can justify canceling the debates, you know that’s the path they will choose. The only remaining question is whether or not President Trump can rally and make his way across the finish line against a virtually invisible and silent opponent whose only signature issue is not being Donald Trump.