How the end of lockdown will hurt Joe Biden amid the campaign trail

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Joe Biden might be the luckiest person in politics. Despite endless gaffes and awkward encounters, he became the Democratic nominee following several candidates dropping out and the implosion of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Biden had another major boost with the coronavirus lockdown. Stuck at home, some of his worst qualities, including degraded language skills, a tendency to pick fights with his supporters, and his dubious track record, became hidden from the public. However, with restrictions being lifted across many states, his weakness will be laid bare.

Before the lockdowns, his campaign was flailing. Biden seemed to make it a point to stick his foot in his mouth at every available opportunity. Do you remember when he called a voter a “damn liar” in Iowa? Or when he oddly asserted that 150 million people have died from gun violence over the last 13 years? While these incidents might seem like forever ago with all that is going on in the country, they shaped the poor public perception of Biden before the coronavirus took the spotlight away from him.

With the lockdowns ending, Biden will lose his advantage of staying out of the spotlight. He will have to transition from interviews with friendly hosts, conducted from his home in Delaware where aides could carefully control optics, to the unpredictable style of town halls. Without any handlers able to manage every moment, his loose tongue or instigative attitude toward voters threaten to define the remainder of his campaign.

Biden still had blunders over the last few months that would have made headline news during normal times but were quickly forgotten amid the pandemic reports. Honorable mentions include when he asserted black Trump supporters are not really black, stated just 85,000 jobs were lost due to the coronavirus but millions had died, and appeared to fall asleep during a virtual town hall with Hillary Clinton. Such faux pas will become more frequent as Biden is forced into public and will do greater political damage with a news cycle more focused on the election.

The shifting news cycle will also place his track record under increased scrutiny, most notably his pivotal role writing the disastrous 1994 crime bill. His tough on crime overhaul may be considered common sense to moderates, but the protests reveal what a political liability it is among Democrats today. The bill raised police funding and was so strict that Biden said it did it all except “hang people for jaywalking.”

While the lockdowns allowed Biden to hide his all greatest flaws, they also prevented Donald Trump from using his greatest strengths. The president is at his best in front of energized crowds at his massive rallies. Due to the coronavirus, he has not utilized his most potent tool just yet. However, the reinvigoration of the Trump campaign through its heavily attended events will serve as a reminder of the reasons why he won four years ago. His first rally since the start of the pandemic will be next weekend.

The very stark comparison between Biden and Trump, both in their 70s, only belies the fact that they are less than five years apart. The speaking ability of Biden will be highlighted as the race wears on him. Humiliating mistakes and numerous “senior moments” might hand not only general voters, but perhaps hardcore Democrats, cause for concern, especially when contrasted with the energy and stamina from Trump.

As November draws closer, expect the Biden campaign to continue using the pandemic as a reason to reduce his visibility and liability, especially at the party convention, which will likely be sparsely populated compared to previous election cycles. Democrats could even try to avoid a live debate with Trump by citing the pandemic. This would then allow Biden to speak mostly with scripted comments and surrounded by his staff.

Trump is not out of the woods. His approval fell below 40 percent in some polls, and there is plenty of time to make his own errors. But we have seen a race between Trump and another Democratic candidate who struggled before. Biden could hide behind the effects of the coronavirus. While the country moves on, his campaign may act too slowly to fight the fact that Biden has been the only American to benefit from the crisis.

Kristin Tate is a libertarian author and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is a Robert Novak journalism fellow at the Fund for American Studies. Her newest book is “The Liberal Invasion of Red State America.”

Tags Democrats Donald Trump Election Government Joe Biden Politics President

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