by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Is Democrats’ Biden bubble strategy about to burst? By keeping Biden away from the public, Democrats have compressed the race into a two-month sprint with no margin for error. Like Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, Democrats may find Biden has waited too late to run.
The presidential race is unmistakably closing. On September 1, Real Clear Politics’ average of national polling had Biden lead at 6.2 percent (49.6 percent to 43.4 percent); that is down from a 9.4 percent lead on July 1. In the determinative battleground states, Biden’s lead was just 2.7 percent (48 percent to 45.3 percent), just half of Biden’s 5.5 percent lead on August 5.
This means Biden must return to the campaign trail, or risk repeating 2016 when Hillary Clinton went AWOL. Ceding seemingly secure seats, Clinton let Trump flip blue states she thought already won. Biden now sees a very different race than the one he left months ago: One of narrowing polls, rising stakes, and a shrinking calendar.
This new view raises questions about Democrats’ strategy of isolating Biden for so long. Since the last race was close, it is not unexpected that 2020 would tighten too, especially with Trump’s support remaining stable and motivated.
Also, America wants to see its presidential candidates campaign. The current system did not evolve by accident or overnight. The presidency is substantive and symbolic; symbols are meant to be seen. Focusing solely on the symbolic — as Clinton did in 2016 — is a mistake.
All of this indicated Biden would have to run publicly at some point. Why then did Democrats wait so long? Re-emerging now presents numerous challenges.
First is Biden’s preparation for running publicly after being effectively absent for months.
Running for president is mentally and physically grueling. It is a relentless grind of politics, public, and pundits. Biden has avoided all three.