October 24, 2020

RETURNING TO NORMALCY:

The Unspectacular Excellence of Joe Biden's Slow and Steady Campaign (TIM ALBERTA, 10/23/2020, Politico)

The reasons I expected Biden to get mauled by the likes of Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are exactly the reasons he outlasted them all.

The reasons I wondered how he would fare against Donald Trump are exactly the reasons he outperformed the president in each of their two debates.

Biden is slow. He is steady. He is unspectacular. In other words, he is what much of the electorate seems to want.

On Thursday night, two years after he stepped to that lectern in Lansing, Biden climbed down tiredly from the stage in Nashville. Over the previous 90 minutes, he had put the finishing touches on a campaign that was crafted in defiance of every expectation placed upon him and his party since Trump took office. I would call Biden's performance in the final debate an exclamation mark--except there is nothing exclamatory about his candidacy. He has run, objectively speaking, one of the most monotonous and predictable and uneventful campaigns for president in recent memory. And it has been nothing short of superb. Now, with Biden on the brink of a historic victory, it's worth understanding what has been right about his campaign--not simply what has been wrong with Trump's.

The Democratic nominee was at it again Thursday night, plodding along at a comfortable pace, reciting methodically rehearsed responses, never losing his composure or abandoning his message. It was telling that the lone error Biden supposedly committed--pledging to transition the country away from reliance on oil--is something he has discussed regularly over the past 18 months. Could he have polished his point a bit more? Sure. But there was no controversy. There was no campaign-imploding misstep. This was not Hillary Clinton promising to put coal miners out of work or Mitt Romney calling 47 percent of the country indolent. The former vice president's loyalists who have spent two years holding their breath, certain that he could say something disqualifying at any moment, are exhaling today with equal parts relief and amazement. The truth is, for all Biden's history of veering outside the lines and putting his foot in his mouth, he has navigated the most hyperexposed and instantly scrutinized political climate in history without ever putting himself in real jeopardy.

Some of this, of course, owes to a sheltering strategy that has kept the Democratic nominee out of sight for long stretches of the race. The basement that Trump mocked on Thursday night actually has been a protective lair from which Biden has run a textbook referendum campaign, keeping the focus on the incumbent, not on himself.

But much of Biden's success owes to his opponent's willingness to embrace that referendum.

Posted by at October 24, 2020 9:24 AM

  

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