by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At first glance, Joe Biden’s strategy of avoiding the spotlight is paying off. He maintains his consistent lead over Donald Trump in national polls. In June, in the aftermath of the Lafayette Park fiasco, his advantage in the RealClearPolitics average expanded to 10 points. The critical swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida are trending his way. His lead gives him the freedom to mollify the progressive wing of his party by shifting leftward on policy. The Democrats smell victory and dream of unified control of government for the first time in a decade.
There is no question that President Trump is in trouble. But look again at the polls. The national race has tightened. …
… The truth is that, except on the air and online, the presidential campaign really hasn’t started yet. The coronavirus has upended traditional forms of electioneering. It’s forced Trump to cancel his tentpole rallies, driven both parties to hold virtual conventions, and blotted out the daily back-and-forth between candidates and campaigns. That has left the race in a form of suspended animation, with Biden enjoying the fruits of leaving Trump to his own often self-destructive devices.
But the strategy is not all upside. It has left Biden offstage during a multifaceted national emergency. The Democratic nominee has made a series of speeches detailing his “Build Back Better” agenda, but has anyone really paid attention to them? Nor did Biden take a strong stand against the violence in Seattle and Portland. He’s been AWOL. The Trump campaign has turned the minuscule audiences that attend his livestreamed events into the butt of a running Twitter joke. A philosopher might say that Biden has transcended his physical form and become the Platonic ideal of a “generic Democrat.”