Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, meaning he will all but likely be challenging Donald Trump on the ballot in November.
Up until recently, things have been looking good for Biden. Trump has been the first president in history not to reach at least 50% approval, reaffirming that he is a divisive and polarising figure in politics. This should in theory play to Biden’s strengths, with him being able to depict himself as the moderate voice of reason who will bring some civility and consensus back into the White House. In the past few weeks too, President Trump has been heavily criticised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A recent poll found that Trump’s coronavirus advice was ‘more harmful than helpful’, and this could benefit Biden. Voters may become disillusioned with the president and feel his handling has been substandard and turn to a recognised face to take his place. This theory may also be supported by the fact that recent polling has indicated Biden has a slight lead in some of the most important battleground states, which will be crucial to win if he wants to beat Trump.
However, there are a few problems facing Biden and his campaign that will need to be addressed if he wants to maximise his chances at success in the general election.
Firstly, Biden has been accused of sexual assault by a former staffer Tara Reade. Biden has repeatedly denied the allegations, stating publicly on the Morning Joe programme that ‘it is not true…I am saying unequivocally that it never happened’. I am not going to speculate or guess whether Joe Biden is guilty of this alleged sexual assault. With an allegation of this stature, it would be wrong and foolish of me to do so. How do I know? What is clear, however, is that this certainly raises a problem for his campaign. For a man that said during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings that ‘for a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus…you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real’, some feel Biden is backtracking on his past statements and feels that different rules apply to him. Whether it is true or not, allegations have weight, and Biden and his campaign have a duty to assure the public that the accusations will be taken seriously. According to a recent YouGov poll, 53% of those surveyed said they are not sure or haven’t heard enough to say whether they believe Biden or Tara Reade, so this could be a period for Biden to be transparent and potentially clear his name.
Secondly, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works in relation to campaigning and touring the country. In previous election cycles, a candidate would be able to speak to citizens across the nation, engage in town halls and events, in an attempt to get their message and policy proposals out to the public. Now though, due to lockdown restrictions and public safety, Biden has become ‘Basement Biden’, participating in phone-ins and online events from his home. This is far from ideal. In comparison to his rival Trump, who is able to broadcast to the world’s press via the White House press briefing room, Biden’s scope is limited, and he is at a disadvantage because of it. Online statements and virtual conferences will not cut it. He needs to be more active on social media, utilising his Democratic network and grassroots support to spread his message and bolster his presence. Trump currently has 3x as many cable news mentions and 7x as many social media interactions. Axios summaries well in their article when they state: ‘As the president riffs for hours in front of TV cameras, Biden is chugging away on virtual livestreams — practically unnoticed’.
Lastly, although a relatively minor point compared to the previous two, Biden needs to stop with the gaffes where possible as they can be shared that could present him as unpresidential. Biden has been mocked online for forgetting the words of the Declaration of Independence and telling a factory worker that he is ‘full of s***’ in a debate about guns. Although minor, when shared across social media, these clips can greatly damage the calm and composed image you are trying to project. Trump too has already latched onto this, clowning Biden by referring to him as ‘Sleepy Joe’ in tweets and at rallies, questioning his mental fitness and intelligence.
Ultimately, these problems are things that can be addressed by the Biden team. At a time when Trump’s competence is being questioned in relation to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, now is Biden’s chance to act and prove himself as a more suitable candidate. Will the voters dump Trump and back Biden instead? We will have to wait until November to find out.