Monday, May 13, 2019

Good Gets Better for Biden

Towering Democratic frontrunner has 72 hours of strongest press coverage of young candidacy.

My take: In some ways, the most important 2020 story of the weekend was this Washington Post piece about how key supporters of and strategists for Barack Obama are largely holding back on joining Team Biden.

The story is essential reading, because these savvy Democrats (mostly speaking anonymously) give voice to the concerns that could (could!) eventually topple Biden from his current lofty perch above the field.

The central worry of the Obamans, who maintain their 2008 sensibility that the party needs a fresh insurgent candidate to unite and inspire, is that Biden is just too much a man of the past to capture the hearts of the Democratic Party and the nation.

They also doubt he can sustain his widely acknowledged fast start.

Someday, this Post piece reflecting the feelings and analysis of this group might prove to be the prologue of the story of someone else winning the Democratic nomination.

But today, this account is an outlier in the extreme.

Look at the other solid reporting over the last three days and all you see is good news for Biden.

Item: Donald Trump (who is actually a pretty good political analyst) made it clear in an interview that he sees Biden as the frontrunner and the likely eventual nominee.

Item: The often-woke New York magazine realized that the Democratic Party electorate hasn’t moved as far to the left as Twitter, cable news, and some Internet chatter would lead one to believe.

Item: Biden is close to 50% support in a new South Carolina poll.

Item: With the demographics of Florida’s Democratic electorate tailor-made for Biden, the state can deliver the nomination to him if he can head into the Sunshine State primary as the frontrunner.

Item: Biden and his team have organized his schedule and campaign practices to avoid any narrative-changing gaffes.

Item: Biden’s entry has exposed weaknesses in Bernie Sanders’ second-place campaign that has surprised me and many others, while other Democrats are still spending more time trying to pass Sanders than trying to take a piece out of Biden.

Items: Kamala Harris is having to defend California in the fundraising and political realms, and having to deal with some members of the Congressional Black Caucus pitching her as Biden’s vp candidate.

Item: Beto is already talking about trying to re-launch his campaign.

Biden’s formula is hiding in plain sight: avoid criticizing or engaging with his Democratic rivals, while focusing on Trump; rack up endorsements; campaign energetically but carefully; stay optimistic; roll out policy later in the nomination cycle; choose his media interviewers carefully; and never talk about being the inevitable nominee while subtly doing everything possible to create the impression that he is the inevitable nominee.

The other twenty candidates all face the same dilemma: how to effectively overwhelm their non-Biden rivals to build enough polling, fundraising, media, and political strength to earn the ability to say they have the capacity to catch the Democratic frontrunner and topple Trump.

It can be done. It is a simple formula:

Biden collapses + a candidate quietly builds a massive field operation + that same candidate then gets hot on the stump at just the right moment

After the last 72 hours, however, that formula looks more theoretical than real.

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