Joe Biden is the Democratic frontrunner for president. The big money donors say so. The pollsters all say so. The 95 percent of the media outlets that are little more than a public relations arm of the Democratic Party say so, too.
So where is he?
It is a mystery. The former vice president has no other job. Nothing distracts him from getting out there and maintaining a full campaign schedule. He has no Senate votes to attend, no committee hearings to yawn through, no international trips to make, no drone strikes to authorize, no congressional investigations to battle, no foreign dignitaries to host.
According to Biden, the 2020 election is a battle for the soul of the nation. One would expect him to focus all his time and energy on the campaign. And yet . . . Biden is virtually invisible.
Biden’s campaign website prominently displays a link to upcoming events. As of Monday, the page lists exactly four events through June 15. Two of them are in New Hampshire on Tuesday, one is in Pennsylvania (not far from Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden lives) on June 14, and the last one is in Nevada on June 15.
One of the New Hampshire events is at the Berlin City Hall Auditorium. Berlin is a fabulous town, I am sure, but it is a town of 10,000 residents. Judging from images in Google StreetView, the Berlin City Hall is about what you’d expect:
According to the Berlin municipal website, the city government has a number of departments—many of which are presumably housed in the same building, including: assessing, water works, the city clerk, city manager, code enforcement, emergency management services, the finance department, health department, housing, the inescapable human resources department, planning, and public works. And that’s only a partial list. How big could the city hall auditorium be? 150 seats? 200?
Now, pressing flesh and meeting New Hampshire voters in small venues is, no doubt, important (even if you can’t sniff their hair or massage their daughters), and New Hampshire is a small state with no expectations of 100,000 people showing up to a rally. But this is the best that Biden can do? Hoping to fill a tiny auditorium? Even the local elementary school’s gym is probably bigger.
Then, the same day, Biden moves on to Concord. Big campaign rally planned? No, not quite—it’s a small event at a union hall. Here is the venue:
How many people could fit into an event at that place? 75? 100? 150? The Democratic frontrunner can’t do better than a small union hall?
There is nothing wrong with trying to shore up your union support—but, in a city of 43,000 people, wouldn’t there be more people who want to see Biden? Sure, as the fake descendant of Welsh coal miners, Biden wants to emphasize his union “roots,” and Biden is (according to Biden) a “beloved figure” within the Democratic Party—but a tiny union hall is enough to fit all the Concordians who want to hear Biden speak?
Then Biden disappears from view for 10 days, until the next campaign event in Media, Pennsylvania (a 30-minute drive from his house in Delaware), on June 14. It’s not clear what exactly he plans to be doing those 10 days. Fundraising out of sight of the voters? Thinking big thoughts? Hasn’t he had two-and-a-half years since the 2016 election to think those big thoughts? This looks like a Rose Garden campaign strategy—without the Rose Garden.
Biden is certainly not burdening himself with the rigors of a national campaign, because the June 14 event in Media is a volunteer-organized “house party” at Sligo Irish Pub. Here is the pub—the tiny red and yellow one in the center:
According to the Sligo website, an upstairs room can accommodate up to 100 guests. There is nothing wrong with meeting your campaign volunteers, giving them a pep talk, shaking a few hands, and having a beer or two to pretend that you are just a regular guy (unless, of course, you’re Senator Elizabeth Warren trying to drink a beer to show that you’re just a regular gal—then you look manifestly ridiculous). But Media is a suburb of Philadelphia. Surely Biden could better spend his time addressing the tens of thousands of Philadelphians who desperately want to see him?
Pennsylvania is a swing state. What better time to try to make it swing your way (unlike 2016)?
Then Biden heads to Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, for a “community event” on June 15. No venue information is listed on Biden’s website, but if it’s anything bigger than a local Barnes and Noble, presumably it would have to be reserved in advance. So let’s figure on another small venue for maybe 100 people.
No other campaign events are listed on Biden’s website. Nothing. Nada.
What the hell, man?
After doing his Hamlet routine for almost a year, Biden announced his run on April 25 in Philadelphia. His campaign claims 6,000 people showed up to his announcement. People who were actually there are deeply skeptical of that number. But this is Biden country! The bluest of the blue cities in the state where Biden was born! And Biden is making the Big Announcement! In a city not far from Scranton, where he came from!
And yet . . . maybe 4,000-5000 people showed up. In Philadelphia.
Where are the worshipful throngs, waiting in long lines to see their man? Where are the adoring crowds, eager to see their hero? Where are the mobs of supporters, desperate for a glimpse of their savior?
This doesn’t make any sense.
The Washington Post on May 26 claimed Biden has held 11 events since he announced. That’s one every three days—and from what I can tell, that number includes fundraisers. This is not just taking things slow and steady; it’s downright soporific.
The number through June 15 would be about 15 campaign events for about 50 days of campaigning. That’s less than one event every three days—surgery patients under anesthesia are more active than Joe Biden. But those patients aren’t running for president.
As an almost-octogenarian, doesn’t Biden think it’s important to show voters that he has what it takes, for a long, tough, brutal campaign? You can bet Trump won’t be doing one house party every three days for the next 18 months. With his schedule, it seems that getting out of bed in the morning is already a big achievement for Biden.
Biden’s PR flacks say he doesn’t need to campaign hard. Everyone knows who Uncle Joe is, they claim. He doesn’t need to introduce himself to voters—they already love him. His voters don’t come to rallies, they just come to vote for him. And he is, after all, the frontrunner in the polls (somewhere in the mid-30s now that his post-announcement bounce is fading—but that’s still well ahead of everyone else), so he must doing something right.
Much has been said about Biden’s lack of intersectional bona fides. It is true that he is not a woman, he is not black, nor is he gay. He is not even Hispanic. But Biden’s problem is not that he is white—Biden’s problem is that he is dead.
Photo credit: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images