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Can Biden Emerge From the Basement and Meet the Moment?

  • June 01, 2020

Mr. Biden’s short but stark appearance on Friday showed that when he does step onto a large platform, his appearances can be powerful and effective. In this case, it set up a sharp contrast with Mr. Trump’s terse news conference at the White House, where he initially made no mention of the events engulfing the nation.

Mr. Biden was able to draw another contrast with Mr. Trump last Wednesday night as he paid tribute in a video to the 100,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19. Mr. Trump has struggled to seem empathetic as the nation confronted this grim milestone.

And as this long spring churns on, Mr. Biden’s confinement has freed him of the trappings of the modern campaign, its days packed with expensive and time-consuming rallies and chartered jets, which often seem a throwback to a predigital era. It has spared Mr. Biden the 14-hour days that can be exhausting even for a candidate half his age.

He is able to spend far less money by staying off the road, no small matter as he confronts an incumbent with a $187 million general election cash advantage. His isolation has allowed him to accelerate hiring that was constrained during the primaries by the campaign’s money shortage.

The virus crisis has taken him a little out of the spotlight — probably not a bad thing, given his propensity for saying the wrong thing — and focused attention on Mr. Trump as he struggles to manage a deadly pandemic and civil unrest across the nation.

“It’s fine — it’s more than fine,” said Rahm Emanuel, the former Democratic mayor of Chicago who was chief of staff to former President Barack Obama. “This is a race of Trump versus Trump, and Trump is losing.”

Scott Reed, a Republican consultant who managed the 1996 presidential campaign of Bob Dole, said Mr. Biden’s situation was reminiscent of the challenge Mr. Dole faced after capturing the nomination in April 1996 and then having to fill time, and attract attention, for four months until the convention. But this, he said, is playing more to Mr. Biden’s advantage.

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