Joe Biden is a terrible candidate.
He is 77 years old; he is incoherent; he has called a “lid” every other day of his campaign to avoid serious questioning. His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, is so unpopular that she dropped out of the Democratic primaries before they even reached her home state. The Biden-Harris campaign is absolutely lackluster.
And according to national polling, Joe Biden is leading incumbent President Donald Trump by up to 16 points. In the RealClearPolitics polling average, Trump is trailing Biden in every single swing state. Were the election held today, by the RealClearPolitics statistics, Biden would win 375 electoral votes, picking up states including North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
How is this happening? How did a doddering fool, a career politician mostly famous for his incurable logorrhea, end up in the catbird seat one month before the 2020 election?
The answer is simple: Joe Biden understands the nature of this election. Donald Trump simply does not.
To understand this election does not require a graduate course in political science: If the election is a referendum on President Trump, he will lose; if the election is a referendum on Joe Biden, he will lose. Trump is personally unpopular by every poll metric, and he has been consistently unpopular for years, but he was still able to win in 2016 because Hillary Clinton was even less popular. The same could have held true here.
After all, Biden has opened himself wide to serious questioning. He has repeatedly refused to state whether he is in favor of ending the Senate filibuster, adding new states and packing the Supreme Court, calling such questions distractions; he has refused to condemn the antifa movement; he has soft-pedaled Black Lives Matter violence in America’s major cities; he has put forward the most left-wing platform in American history, according to communist fellow traveler Bernie Sanders.
But Biden hasn’t answered a single serious question. He has been able to avoid nearly all questions by pointing at his opponent. Biden hasn’t just run a lackluster campaign; he hasn’t run any campaign. He hasn’t even walked a campaign. He has essentially grown into his couch in his Delaware basement, getting out only long enough to stand in front of an empty field or answer a few softball questions from a friendly pseudo-journalist.
That’s not just because the media hate Trump and sycophantically massage Biden, though they do. It’s because Trump himself steadfastly refuses to recognize the central issue of the campaign: his own centrality. Trump loves being the center of attention, and he simply refuses to cede the spotlight. Every day is a new spectacle in Trumpland, from descending in Marine One onto the White House lawn amid dramatic music to reenter quarantine to tweeting incessantly about the latest news of the day. The media hang on Trump’s every word, and he appears to love that.
But that symbiotic relationship between Trump and the media puts Trump at a dramatic disadvantage. The more people think about Trump, the less they want to. In 2016, the “Access Hollywood” tape unintentionally relegated Trump to the sidelines in the last days of the campaign, freeing the way for then-FBI Director James Comey to put the spotlight squarely on Hillary Clinton’s emails — and Trump won. In 2018, Democrats seized the spotlight by unjustly and cruelly maligning Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the polls consequently tightened; then Trump seized the spotlight back by talking about illegal immigrant caravans, and Democrats won.
Joe Biden has learned the lesson. Biden has spent this campaign pointing at Trump. Trump, who should be pointing at Biden, is too busy pointing at himself. Unless Trump somehow suppresses his ego enough to allow Biden to become the issue, Trump is likely to exit the political stage altogether come Nov. 3.