I went to the supermarket to pick up a container of milk, and there was a picture of Joe BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE on the carton with the caption: “If you see this man, please call the 800-number below.”
Okay, I made that up, but I trust you get the point.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that ordinary Americans run their daily lives — and the way politicians run their presidential campaigns.
Joe Biden is holed up at home in Delaware where, from time to time, he goes into his makeshift studio, turns on the camera, and does a guest shot on cable TV or produces a campaign video you can watch online — the last one commenting on the relief bill just passed by Congress. He appeared on a CNN town hall a few nights ago from his home studio amid fears from some Democrats that he’s been out of the public view for too long.
Meanwhile, President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE is on national TV just about every day, bringing the American people up to date on the latest information about the coronavirus. No, it’s not the same as Donald Trump stirring up his loyal fans at a packed-house campaign rally but, in political terms, it’s better than what Joe Biden is offering the electorate from his house.
And it looks like the president’s reality virus TV show, which was off to a rocky start, is now playing well with the voters.
An ABC News poll on March 12 found only 43 percent of Americans approving of the president’s handling of the crisis and 54 percent disapproving. Just one week later, on March 19, the president was up to 55 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving. And, on March 22, Gallup had the president with 60 percent approval.
In that Gallup poll, among Republicans, 94 percent approve of the president’s handling of the outbreak. Predictably, Democrats don’t like what they see — only 27 percent of Democrats approve.
But here’s the really important statistic: 60 percent of independents approve of how the president is handling the pandemic crisis. And they’re the ones who just may decide the election — independent, moderate, swing voters who helped Democrats win control of the House in 2018.
I suspect Americans are noticing something else. The relief bill to get the nation back on its feet had more than a few goodies thrown in to please the progressive wing of the Democratic Party: $25 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and a provision that deals with — wait for it — airline emission standards. And this helps workers get through this crisis … how?
Joe Biden is the presumptive candidate for his party’s nomination for president. As such, he’s also, or should be, the one visibly leading the party. But that role has been left to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies GOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) who, unlike Biden, aren’t under quarantine, self-imposed or otherwise. And since Biden didn’t lead the fight to get the bill passed, he’ll have a hard time taking credit for it if it works.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen between now and Election Day. But, at the moment, Donald Trump is playing the role of a “wartime president,” as he likes to say.
He doesn’t need to get into squabbles with reporters over questions he doesn’t like; it makes him look petty — not like a wartime president. He needs to be careful with the information he puts out; too many “clarifications” from his team of experts, no matter how delicately they correct the president, won’t make an electorate that’s already on edge feel safe.
Still, he’s the one at the podium, the one on camera, the one who keeps anxious Americans on top of the latest information — while Joe Biden is at home in Delaware, flying way below the radar, just trying to stay relevant.
NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to correct the amount allocated for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.