Can this Joe Biden comeback last?

Like the story of Lazarus in the Bible, the campaign of Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE has been raised from the dead in South Carolina after disappointing performances in the first three primary states. Biden, a three time presidential candidate, who up until South Carolina had still not yet won a primary election in this cycle, delivered a much needed victory in the Palmetto State. The former vice president did not just squeak out a win as some political forecasters predicted. Instead, Biden won every single county in South Carolina.

Such a dominant victory should not be overlooked. I have seen first hand what a campaign on its last breath looks like. How a campaign responds in that moment says a lot about the ability of a candidate to navigate a crisis. Biden not only rose to the occasion, he exceeded expectations and gave voters a reason to explain away his performance up to this point as simply a campaign struggling to find its groove. Make no mistake about it, this was his last stand. Anything short of a win by 10 points would have ended his campaign and handed the nomination to Sanders. Thankfully, Biden will live to fight another day. The question now becomes how long.

With Super Tuesday around the corner and an organizing advantage that favors Sanders, the question that many pundits have been asking since the polls closed in South Carolina over the weekend is whether Biden can write the script for one of the best comeback stories in political history. The answer is yes, but it requires a lot of risk and a little more luck.


Telling stories about his time as vice president to Barack Obama is nice, but the optics of a press conference in a location set up to look like the White House briefing room is even better. In 2008, Obama was criticized for using a logo resembling the presidential seal while still seeking the Democratic nomination. The more voters saw Obama in front of the seal, the more comfortable they became with the idea that he could win. The same applies to Biden. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.

Some may believe that Biden is first in line for the Democratic nomination this year, but they could not be more wrong. Voters look at the roles and responsibilities of their president and vice president very differently. We know this because not many vice presidents have been elected president. If Biden wants to be president, then he should act like he is president.

When President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE does a press gaggle before taking off on the South Lawn or takes questions in the Oval Office, Biden should find the nearest lectern and cut into that airtime nonstop. Free media launched Trump into the White House, and that kind of coverage could do the same for Biden. If the topic is the coronavirus, announce who will serve on your transition team. If the topic is the the stock market, announce who will serve on your economic council. Time is now of the essence. Biden cannot simply tell Americans that he is an alternative to Trump. He must show them why he is better. Take the greatest asset of Trump, his great ability to shape media coverage, and make it his greatest liability. If you think that dueling press conferences will not rattle Trump, then you do not understand him.

Because of his lack of infrastructure, Biden needs his surrogates deployed on every network and interviewing with every reporter, explaining the risk that a Sanders nomination poses for the country and the liability on the ticket. Biden finally began making that case during his victory speech in Columbia, but now is the time to hammer it home. Much like Obama did to John McCain in 2008 and Hillary Clinton did to Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Trump's debate performance was too little, too late Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE in 2016, Biden and his surrogates should end every other sentence asking, “Are we really ready to bet the country on him?” They need to make this clear.

Turning this into a national message that is easy to understand will not only make it easy to repeat on the airwaves, but it will resonate with many Americans worried about record drops in the stock market and the ability of this administration to respond to the coronavirus. If the race comes down to who can best ease these fears, who can provide a steady hand during a time of crisis, and who voters trust the most, Biden will not only perform well on Super Tuesday, but will be on his way to blocking Sanders from delegates and saving down ballot races across the country.

Biden need not win every state to claim success on Super Tuesday, but he needs to prove that his path to the nomination is strong. Keeping Texas within the margin of error, denying Sanders all the delegates in California, and running up the score in states like Virginia and North Carolina would turn what some dismiss as a one off victory in South Carolina into what Americans love more than anything, an incredible comeback story.

Michael Starr Hopkins is the founding partner of Northern Starr Strategies. He served with the Democratic presidential campaigns for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Delaney. Follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.