Biden struggling to break through in coronavirus crisis
Former Vice President Joe Biden was a guest on “The View” on Tuesday, appearing live from his new television studio built in his Wilmington, Del., home.
He used the appearance to once again take swipes at President Trump‘s coronavirus response, rejecting his suggestion that restrictions might soon be eased to restart the economy: “We’ve got to flatten that curve and we’ve got to make sure that once in fact we have this under control, it doesn’t come back.”
For the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Tuesday’s appearance on the popular daytime TV talk show marked his latest attempt to bust out of a state of suspended animation as he tries to return to the public eye in a world turned upside down by a coronavirus pandemic.
But it’s been a struggle for Biden.
With the Democratic primaries frozen in time – and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont still technically a candidate – Biden has yet to formally lock down the Democratic presidential nomination. And for the first time in decades, Biden is now a private citizen and outside government, with no formal role like a senator or governor in working to protect constituents on a daily basis.
As Biden was sweeping major primaries one week ago in Florida, Illinois and Arizona – cementing his position as the all-but-certain nominee and all but closing Sanders’ narrow pathway to the White House – his achievements were drowned out by coronavirus coverage, as the number of infections and the death toll from the pandemic skyrocketed across the country.
Biden basically disappeared from the airwaves and online at the same time that President Trump became a daily fixture at the White House briefings on the coronavirus. While the president’s sometimes controversial comments at those briefings have invited plenty of criticism, he’s the center of attention while Biden’s once high profile has been severely reduced.
And Biden also has to compete for media attention with governors of some of the hardest-hit states – whose daily briefings have been receiving national attention. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York – whose state is now the nation’s epicenter of the battle against the coronavirus – has become a daily fixture on the cable news networks, and Biden has repeatedly praised his fellow Democrat.
To get their candidate back on the airwaves, Biden’s campaign quickly had a television studio constructed in the former vice president’s Wilmington home. It got its first use on Monday, when Biden delivered remarks on coronavirus.
“Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus. But he does bear responsibility for our response,” Biden said. “This isn’t about politics. This is simply too much at stake. Too many lives.”
Biden’s criticism of the president’s handling of the coronavirus was tempered compared with his comments on a conference call just three days earlier with reporters, in which he urged Trump to “stop saying false things, will you? People are worried. They are really frightened. And when these things don’t come true, you just exacerbate their concern. Stop saying false things [you] think make you sound like a hero.”
But Monday’s first live appearance by Biden wasn’t carried by the major cable news networks – which instead were taking a briefing from Albany, N.Y., from Gov. Cuomo.
“We were on as the same time as a public health briefing from the state of New York, which is being badly hit by this crisis,” a senior Biden campaign official noted when asked about Monday’s speech. But the official did say that the livestream was watched by 230,000 people and predicted that “you should expect to see the vice president increasing more on cable as we go forward.”
The official said that the goal going forward is “to lean in a little bit and be doing something different every day. The format’s going to change but the message and the vice president is going to be the consistent thing, which is that Donald Trump has mismanaged this response to this crisis in a really severe way and continues to not respond effectively and he’s going to point that out and be clear about the steps he would be taking if he were president to address this.”
The official spotlighted that “we’ve responded in real time as the president continues to make what we think are the wrong decisions” and pledged that “you’re going to continue to see him comment in real time on social through statements, on video.”
Trump’s reelection campaign has repeatedly fired back, accusing Biden of trying to politicize the crisis.
“By preying upon Americans’ fear amid the coronavirus outbreak, Biden isn’t just playing cheap politics. He’s making the crisis worse. It’s dangerous,” the Trump campaign’s argued. “Biden’s Monday morning quarterbacking is an effort to sow anger and division among Americans.”
Biden’s team response is that with the coronavirus sweeping the nation and Americans fearful for their safety and economic well-being, their candidate “should be saying every day what he would be doing as the president and as the person in charge of the health and economic response to the crisis.”
Lynda Tran, a veteran Democratic strategist and communications consultant, said that Biden’s “message has to be about the unity it will require to survive this moment: We are better than this. We can and will get through this together. That is the point of social-distancing and shelter-in-place policies. It’s literally the opposite of ‘I alone can solve this.’”
Tran – a veteran of the Democratic National Committee and a founding partner of the communications firm 270 Strategies – said that if she were advising the Biden team, “I would urge them to create a vehicle for Americans to hear from him on a regular basis — a series of virtual ‘fireside chats’ set to air at a consistent time via the various social media channels available to millions across the country and that does not rely on the news media for distribution.
“At the same time, I would also have him participate in frequent national and local media interviews that enable him to remind the country and the world that the chaos and lack of preparedness we’ve been experiencing was not and has never been a foregone conclusion,” she added.
Biden’s team says such ideas are in the works.
“We’re going to be creative and think outside the box a little bit on how we can reach a lot of folks. We want to focus on building our community, like fostering connections that we would normally be doing in person but now we’re doing virtually. So that could look like a lot of different things,” a senior Biden campaign official told Fox News.
“You saw us put out three videos over the weekend, all of which got a million views over 24 hours,” the official spotlighted. “You’re going to see the vice president out there more, taking questions virtually, experimenting with a virtual rope line, experimenting with a podcast.”
And Biden understands the potential of virtual campaigning.
“The irony is, virtual campaigning, I’ll probably reach more people than I would out there shaking hands,” he said Monday on “The View.”
“With the new technology available, I think I’ll be able to reach and make my points across as well as I could if I were out doing a big rally. “