Is it time for Joe Biden to come out of his basement?
This is turning out to be the weirdest presidential campaign ever. It’s the inside strategy vs. the outside, the visible vs. the invisible, the everywhere vs. the nowhere. Donald Trump’s everywhere, frenetically running around the country, defying all CDC guidelines about COVID-19 – no mask, no social distancing - holding phony photo ops and staged campaign events. Joe Biden’s nowhere, hunkered down in his basement, speaking out daily on TV and Twitter, but rarely venturing outside, and then only to safe locations, small groups of people, socially distanced and fully masked.
The contrast between the omnipresence of Trump and near invisibility of Biden has many Democrats worried. Open your window tonight and you might hear them clamoring: “Joe, get out of the basement!” To which Biden might fire back: “Why?” And he’s got a point. Consider recent history.
In the last couple of weeks, Biden’s held several phenomenally successful online fundraisers: $3.5 million with Kamala Harris; $6 million with Elizabeth Warren; and a whopping $11 million with former President Barack Obama. In May, Biden outraised Trump, $80.8 million to $74 million.
From his basement, Biden also slammed Trump for wanting to slow down testing, condemned his use of the racist term “Kung Flu,” accused Trump of advocating violence against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, and released a killer ad mocking Trump for his difficulty navigating his way down a ramp at West Point. Meanwhile, on the campaign front, Biden leads Donald Trump by double digits in every national poll: CNN, by 14 points; Fox News, by 12 points; and the latest, Sienna College and the New York Times, by 14 points. And that’s before the bump he’ll get from announcing his running mate.
Things are clicking for Joe Biden. Not so much for Donald Trump. During that same time period, Trump lost two major cases before the Supreme Court, with both the gay rights and the DACA decisions written by Republican justices. He also lost his court case to block publication of John Bolton’s new book, which exposed Trump as guilty of even more criminal conduct than Democrats impeached him for. He’s now dealing with a tell-all book by his own niece which accuses him of financial wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, no matter how hard he tries to ignore it, the coronavirus stubbornly refuses to go away. Indeed, it keeps getting worse. Cases are up in 26 states. On Wednesday, June 24, 34,700 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, the highest single day since April. In the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. And those numbers will only get worse if, as Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, predicts, the death toll reaches 200,000 Americans by October 1.
On the campaign front, Trump not only trails badly in every national poll, more ominously, he’s also behind in the key battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. At this point, he’s in worse shape of any president up for re-election in the last 70 years. Desperate to bounce back, he insisted on flouting all CDC coronavirus guidelines by holding a MASSIVE campaign rally in Tulsa, which bombed when only 6,200 people showed up in a 19,000 seat arena. After two weeks like that, you’re tempted to ask: “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you like the show?”
Of course, with four months to go, things could and will change. But, for now, things couldn’t be going worse for Donald Trump, or better for Joe Biden. It wasn’t his choice. COVID-19 forced his hand. But Biden’s resurrected the “front-porch” strategy used by many presidential candidates in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They campaigned from their front porch, he’s campaigning from his basement. It worked for them and, so far, it’s working for him.
Think about it. By not racing around the country like a madman, Biden saves money, saves time, saves wear and tear on himself and his staff, reduces the opportunities for gaffes, can spend more time on policy, and, thanks to social media and cable television, still get a strong message out every day. Even a frustrated Donald Trump admitted to Fox News this week that Biden’s campaign has “been run beautifully” so far.
So why change? As my grandfather used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Joe, stay in the basement!
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, “Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him).” His email address is: email@example.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)