by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For Joe Biden, life is looking pretty sweet right now. After stumbling badly in the first three Democratic-primary contests, he mounted arguably the fastest and most surprising comeback in U.S. political history. He’s ahead in both national and swing-state polling against Trump. Most of the media are offering hosannas for his selection of Kamala Harris.
Next week, Joe Biden will formally accept the Democratic nomination, up against a president who has a self-destructive streak wider and deeper than the Mississippi River.
For Biden, these days may be as good as it gets. As November approaches, he will have a tougher time campaigning almost entirely via Zoom calls from Delaware. His fellow Democrats are not hiding their concerns that three 90-minute debates offer ample opportunities for stumbling blocks. Traditionally, presidential campaigns tighten near the end. Nate Silver ominously declares that Biden’s chances of winning are about the same as Hillary Clinton’s chances at this time four years ago.
If Biden wins in November — and with so many Americans voting by mail, it may take a while to determine who wins which states — he may quickly conclude that beating Donald Trump was the comparatively easy part of the job. The incumbent is almost certainly going to be minimally cooperative during the transition. The downside of trying to make the presidential election a referendum on the incumbent is that the electorate offers a mandate that amounts mostly to “don’t be Donald Trump,” not necessarily to a particular course of action or policy.
And if Biden takes the oath on January 20, 2021, he’ll be taking over a country with a high stack of problems — starting with an ongoing pandemic that has killed almost 170,000 Americans and might kill 200,000 to 300,000 by the end of this year.