The criticism is justified, and Biden’s campaign says it is moving to address its weaknesses. On Friday, strategists said Biden forces will have 600 organizers in place in battleground states within the next month — and are doubling their digital team. They talk boldly of how states such as Arizona, Texas and Georgia could be put into play this fall.
But the fact remains, no one really knows how long it will be before Biden can get out and resume anything that resembles a normal campaign schedule.
Democrats, however, should take heart from the fact that it is Trump himself who is, day in and day out, making the best case for Biden’s election. The biggest imperative for Biden is to offer voters a sense of what it would be like to be free of the incoherence and narcissism that are making this, the biggest crisis of our lifetimes, even worse.
Trump didn’t even bother to disguise the fact that his trip Thursday to a medical supply distribution company in Allentown, Pa., was a campaign rally, with some social distancing thrown in. He used one of his favorite inane nicknames to attack Biden; from the speakers came a familiar playlist of songs that he uses at campaign events.
The president’s remarks were the usual mix of defensiveness and blame. Among his disjointed statements was this instant classic of the Trump genre: “We have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Got it? On the very same day when the coronavirus death toll passed 85,000, the president implied that the real problem is that we’re testing too much.
And, of course, once again, the president refused to wear a mask, though he was surrounded by people who did. At this point, it is clear that the only way to get him to put one on, in accordance with his own administration’s guidelines, might be to convince him that it makes him look thinner, like he seems to believe his extra-long ties do.
Biden, meanwhile, offered a smart bit of counterprogramming on Thursday. He live-streamed a virtual roundtable with three Democratic governors who are on the front lines: Gretchen Whitmer (Mich.), Phil Murphy (N.J.) and Ned Lamont (Conn.).
Biden’s performance was not flawless. Is it ever? For instance, he mixed up the number of job losses, which is in the millions, with the 85,000 death toll.
But at least he managed to make it out of his basement, and spoke from what appeared to be his porch. And what he and the trio of governors had was, overall, an informative and substantive discussion.
Whitmer, for instance, spoke of how her state is exploring the racial disparities in the virus’s impact. She also raised practical questions, such as providing child care for front-line workers.
“I know what all of you know, that the only way out of this is by following the science, listening to the experts, talking and taking responsible precautions that are going to help us reopen the economy as safely and as quickly as possible,” Biden said. “And as we do, there’s got to be federal support for state and local levels of our government.”
Perhaps these kinds of events will not prove to be an adequate substitute for traditional campaign rituals. But for now, they are going to have to suffice, and Biden should do more of them.
Roughly 170 days remain between now and the November election. That means it is far too early for Democrats to panic. There is plenty of time left for Biden’s campaign to pull itself out of the basement.