Is Joe Biden breaking through?

Is Joe Biden breaking through?
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Two questions dominate the current stages of the presidential campaign among Democrats. First, did you hear what Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE claimed today? This is usually followed by tweeting in all caps, a gnashing of teeth, or the incredulous shaking of heads. Second, why is Biden not out there more? This is usually followed by white knuckled hand squeezing by supporters.

It is true Biden has been less visible than he would normally be, but this is a perfect storm. The media covers the president, governors, mayors, and others whose decisions have direct impacts on our health and safety. We are in an unprecedented climate today where typical candidate visibility in rallies, speeches, fundraisers, and public events is out of the question.

Strong campaigns are built to be agile, as they adjust to fierce headwinds and crosswinds. For full disclosure, I am a Biden supporter. So I asked the campaign of the former vice president how it has adapted to the reality of being a challenger during this national crisis in a virtual environment. The answer here is that Biden has gone to ground, but the ground is strategic.


He is focusing on battleground states with virtual town halls in Florida and Arizona, along with television interviews in media markets in Pennsylvania. Biden has paid attention across different demographics. He held a virtual briefing on young Americans and has made frequent appearances on the late shows that attract those key voters, such as “Quarantine Monologue” with JImmy Kimmel, “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon, “Desus and Mero” on Showtime, as well as “The Late Late Show” with James Corden.

He is reaching Latinx voters with appearances on Hispanic radio stations. He appealed to progressive voters in a virtual event with Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care MORE. He has engaged in the health and economic issues on the coronavirus, including a Frontlines roundtable with emergency responders, a virtual briefing on Cares Act implementation and oversight, and a virtual town hall on unemployment and working families with several labor groups.

In addition to these efforts, Biden has done the usual round of interviews across the cable television networks, including a town hall with Anderson Cooper and an interview with Chris Cuomo, along with key appearances on CNN with Brooke Baldwin, MSNBC with Brian Williams, NBC News with Chuck Todd, ABC News with George Stephanopoulos, and many others.

Meanwhile, Trump is putting the bully in the bully pulpit. With a stage to himself, he drove down approval of his handling of the crisis, from a high of 52 percent two weeks ago to a low of 44 percent this week, according to Navigator Research, which aggregates public polling. As the president incites dangerous elements of his own supporters to “liberate” states that maintain social distancing, 60 percent of Americans are more concerned that social distancing will end too soon rather than continue for too long.

This means that sometimes the best campaign strategy is to simply allow your opponent do the talking while you hold onto your edge. Candidates can be invincible or invisible. In fairness, during this era, Biden is neither.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and was the chairman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.