The media’s focus in the 2020 presidential election isn’t on Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. It’s on Donald Trump vs. anybody else.
It doesn’t matter that it’s Joe Biden, because that’s not who anyone is talking about. The Democrats certainly aren’t. The media certainly isn’t. Most days, Donald Trump’s opponent might as well be one of those illustrations of a shadowy human profile with a question mark.
If this is the man the other party wants you to vote for, that’d normally be an odd strategy. That said, we’re in the midst of a pandemic and a concomitant economic collapse. The Biden strategy, such as it is, involves emphasizing the president’s Trump-iness and saying that’s what’s responsible.
If the polls are anything to go by, that’s not doing badly so far. In fact, it’s doing so well that some Democrats don’t want their candidate to take the debate stage at all.
That’s why former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says what it’ll take to defeat the former vice president in November is getting America to take a long, hard look at Biden.
“The idea that Joe Biden or anybody around him, the reason they don’t want him to be on a debate stage is because they don’t want him taking questions,” Sanders said Tuesday on Fox News. “They know that he has been a part of the problem for the last 50 years and he can’t defend his record.
“If this race becomes about Joe Biden he knows he loses. People around him know he loses. He is a failed career politician that has moved so far to the left that he is out of touch with America,” she continued.
“If he has to go up and take questions, it is going to be, I think, a disastrous moment for him and his campaign, and I think a lot of people around them know it, that’s the reason they’ve kept him in the basement bunker and it’s the reason they want to limit the debates to one or two and no more than that, if they have them at all.”
One prominent liberal figure to float the idea Biden shouldn’t debate Trump is former Clinton administration press secretary Joe Lockhart.
In a CNN Op-Ed published last Tuesday, Lockhart wrote that “Trump has now made more than 20,000 misleading or false statements according to The Washington Post. It’s a fool’s errand to enter the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth.
“Biden will undoubtedly take heat from Republicans and the media for skipping the debates,” he wrote. “But it’s worth the risk as trying to debate someone incapable of telling the truth is an impossible contest to win.”
I’d say something about the richness of the man who was Bill Clinton’s press secretary when Clinton was formally impeached for lying under oath having written that, but I digress.
In The New York Times, meanwhile, former debate panelist Elizabeth Drew argued for scrapping the debates entirely, saying they’ve come “to resemble professional wrestling matches, and more substantive debates were widely panned in the press. Points went to snappy comebacks and one-liners. Witty remarks drew laughs from the audience and got repeated for days and remembered for years.”
“This, by the way, isn’t written out of any concern that Donald Trump will prevail over Joe Biden in the debates; Mr. Biden has done just fine in a long string of such contests. The point is that ‘winning’ a debate, however assessed, should be irrelevant, as are the debates themselves,” she wrote.
Drew, a prolific Washington, D.C., journalist, moderated a 1976 Gerald Ford-Jimmy Carter debate; the intervening 44 years have apparently been busy, which is why she’s decided just now is the time to take a visible stand on the issue .
Democrats don’t seem particularly enthralled by what Lockhart or Drew are pushing, at least not yet.
“We’ve had presidential debates for a long time now, and it’s been a way for a lot of people around the nation to be able to see the candidates in action,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, according to The Hill.
“I know that Joe Biden will show who he is, a man of both empathy and competence, and I’d like the American people to have a chance to see that.”
“This is a big race, and the answer is yes, I think he should,” California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein added, while saying they ought to be limited.
“I think one or two debates is sufficient,” she said.
It’s not just about the debates, either. Biden has limited his appearances and media access — allowing the Democrats and the media to make the race about Trump alone, something Sanders suggested was indicative of the campaign.
“I think the fact that they want to hide Joe Biden tells us everything we need to know about that campaign,” she said.
“This has nothing to do with his plans are for the country and everything to do with attacking the president. The focus needs to be on who is best fit and ready to lead our country, rebuild our economy. I think when you ask that question, there is no doubt it’s Donald Trump, and that’s the reason nobody wants Joe Biden on a stage being compared to this president.”
Trump, she said, must contrast his record to Biden’s.
“He can restore law and order, he’s built the economy strong, he can certainly do it again, and I think those are two areas that this president can really show contrast with somebody like Joe Biden who’s been part of the problem for far too long, on a debate stage, and I think it’s why it’s important for Americans to see,” Sanders said.
Biden, of course, insists he wants to be on that stage.
“Joe Biden said in June that he looks forward to debating Donald Trump on the dates and in the locations chosen by the Presidential Commission on Debates. We are still waiting for Donald Trump to agree to as much,” Andrew Bates, Biden’s rapid response director, said in a statement to The Hill, referring to the fact that the Trump campaign has yet to formally commit to participating in the debates.
If the former vice president really is looking forward to debating Trump, though, Biden has a funny way of showing it. He gives short speeches, takes few if any questions and prefers highly scripted events which happen as infrequently as possible.
The Democrats have realized their best chance to get Joe Biden elected is to completely ignore Joe Biden. Counterintuitive as that may seem, conservatives oughtn’t kid ourselves — that’s exactly what they’re doing right now, and it’s working.
Trump is wildly popular among his base, but he’s just as viciously hated by the other side.
Allowing the Democrats to focus on Trump and Trump alone while allowing Biden’s competence issues to remain unaddressed is the perfect recipe for a loss.
If the Trump team wants to be sure to keep Joe Biden out of the Oval Office, one way or another, they need to keep him out of the basement.
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