The Virus Insanity Shut-In Time ought to be a perfect opportunity for a presidential candidate like Joe Biden, whose mental acuity was never that sharp, and which lately cuts like a bent yardstick through rawhide. We’ve all watched what sure looks like a decline in Biden’s faculties and energy in recent months, but I did see exactly one time when he still looked and sounded like the old …er, slightly younger… Joe Biden. It was at his most recent debate, mano a mano against Bernie Sanders. Biden showed energy we hadn’t seen in weeks, and if he was still spewing the same old word vomit, he was spewing it with more force. Also, he was completing sentences for the most part.
It seemed like the slower campaign pace was doing Biden some good, and fit in nicely with an idea several political writers had been pushing: Keeping Biden off the campaign trail is the best thing for him.
The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic gives Biden a perfectly legitimate excuse to stay at home, too. No one is going to blame the old guy with questionable health for avoiding crowds and airplanes. And as Peter Sage wrote a couple weeks ago:
I have watched Biden up close in Town Hall settings about six times. He isn’t at his best. He is not persuasive when reading from a teleprompter, and off the teleprompter he makes errors. He moves slowly. He tells stories but doesn’t answer questions sharply. The format shows his vulnerabilities; he isn’t quick, nor flexible, nor energetic.
Instead, he writes, “Biden could run a ‘Front Porch’ campaign, with Biden meeting with friendly groups in his coalition… TV cameras will be there to share it with the country. It sends a message of order and control. It is low drama, the Biden brand, bringing back normalcy.”
Way back in September — a political lifetime ago, before Biden lost his frontrunner status, was left for dead, then got it back and is now presumed unstoppable — Jonah Goldberg noted that Biden “is that he’s not a good presidential campaigner” and that “he may be showing signs of age.”
May be? Well, this was back in September and one week of presidential campaigning does the same harm to your health as seven weeks on a Jim Morrison bender. It’s hard on young, sharp men, and Biden is neither. But back to the subject.
“Every time Biden opens his mouth in an unscripted situation,” Goldberg wrote, “there’s a chance he’ll say something goofy that undercuts his elder statesman status.” Therefore, have Biden campaign the same way Warren Harding did in 1920: Stay at home and have friendly crowds come to watch him speechify from his front porch.
Goldberg seems to actually want Biden to win, which is both wrong and wronger. For me, the desire to see Biden stick to a Front Porch Campaign isn’t about making him more electable. It’s that it would be sad to watch a tired old man needlessly kill himself with a traditional cross-country campaign. Think of all the grandbabies born to knocked-up stripper baby mommas he’d never meet.
But as I was putting this column together, I realized something: Biden already is running a Front Porch Campaign. He’s just doing it really badly.
Here’s how Harding did it 100 years ago, back when Biden was barely old enough to drink:
A century ago — when the post-World War I flu pandemic clearly had passed its peak danger and wasn’t much of a campaign issue at all — Warren G. Harding didn’t venture into packed hotel ballrooms, held no rallies, appeared at no rope lines. He didn’t venture into the country to seek votes. He stayed at home and bid the voters to visit him in Marion, Ohio.
Biden is already doing the digital version of #Harding1920, and it’s been embarrassingly awful.
How bad is it? Let’s look at what the left-wing media has to say:
That last one is from Robert Fisk, who is so far to the left I keep expecting to find out he’s been arrested by Russian security forces for breaking into Lenin’s Mausoleum and molesting the corpse.
I chose smaller publications because by and large the big media outlets are still in cheerleader mode for Biden. But if you look deeper, there is an unmistakable undercurrent of frustration with Biden’s politics — but mostly with his ability (or lack thereof) to beat Trump.
Biden has been doing exactly what the smart people (and I’m not being facetious about them this once) have been telling him to do: Stay close to home, stay close to the script, stay with friendly questioners. It’s just that he’s such a bad campaigner that he’s flailing even in those circumstances.
A brief survey of his Front Porch Campaign so far:
I only had to go back to March 20 — two weeks! — to find all those headlines, and I limited my search to right here at PJMedia.
The fact is that either Biden’s health is so bad, or a lifetime of easy races has left him unprepared, or both, that this is the best he can do under ideal circumstances.
What’s going to become of the poor old man when he and his team realize the Front Porch Campaign isn’t working, and they send him back out on the trail?
I’m not sure I could bear to watch, and I get paid to do just that.