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A few days ago, I wrote about the mystery of Joe Biden. Despite leading in the polls, and raising lots of cash from corporate billionaires and Hollywood celebrities, Biden is almost invisible. If Biden had a national campaign presence for connecting with actual voters, it is thus far microscopic. Biden has only a handful of small public events scheduled through next week.
The former vice president’s schedule looks desolate compared to others, such as Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) or Bernie Sanders (until recently I-Vt., now D-Vt.)—who, at least on paper, have day jobs on Capitol Hill.
I maintain that Biden’s problem is not that he is white—his problem is that he is virtually dead. A closer look at his campaign supports that conclusion.
The normal expectation of a frontrunner is that scores of voters like him and want to see him. A presidential frontrunner, in some undefinable way, embodies the hopes and dreams of millions. A frontrunner packs stadiums and sports arenas with voters who can’t wait to pull the lever for him. A frontrunner has long lines of people who wait for hours to catch a glimpse.
Biden is a new type of frontrunner: the ultimate stealth frontrunner. He is so under the radar, he is almost completely undetectable. Since he is nearly impossible to find, hardly anyone is lining up to see him. The “Joe Biden presidential campaign” exists mostly in the imaginations of reporters, whose job it is to report on him.
In the past week and a half, Biden has presented himself before a grand total of a few hundred potential voters. That’s only a few more voters than I met (counting my HVAC repair guy, the neighbor I saw from a distance walking her dog, the Starbucks barista, and the UPS delivery driver) and I’m not running for president.
Consider Biden’s campaign events in Texas. There is Joe Biden himself, in Houston, on May 28. Big crowds in attendance? Not quite—the event was at a union hall. How many people can possibly squeeze into a single union hall? 100? Where would they even park? They called it a “town hall event.” So, fine, 150 people.
The next day, Biden held an event in Dallas. Like Houston, Dallas is a solidly blue island in a sea of Texas red. Did big mobs of enthusiastic supporters turn up in Dallas? Not exactly. Biden spoke to “a few dozen students.” It’s not clear what “a few” means—two dozen? Three-dozen tops? Let’s figure he might have spoken to 30 people. Someone running for president of his Nursing Home Residents Association would draw this sort of crowd. But the front-running candidate for president of the United States?
Here is Biden at that Dallas event, looking like the embalmer just got done with him.
In his remarks, Biden—who has not actually worked for a living in over 50 years—naturally wanted to raise taxes on business, so the government could “invest” more in all the things that lefty bureaucrats like. But we’re not talking about Grandpa Joe’s plans to raise taxes now; we’re talking about Grandpa Joe himself. It’s hard to imagine many of those 24 students were inspired by a candidate who is mentally and physically decomposing before their very eyes.
Exhausted from staying vertical for longer than a few minutes in Dallas, Biden spent most of the week afterwards doing whatever it is that Biden does when he is hidden from the public eye. After reviving from hibernation on June 1, he gave a short dinner speech in Ohio to an audience of left-wing activists, and then went back to sleep for three days. He then headed to New Hampshire on Tuesday.
The first event in New Hampshire took place in the Berlin City Hall Auditorium. This hour-long news video never gives a clear shot of the entire room, but my best guess is 125 people at most showed up. In the images accompanying the story in the Concord Monitor, a big chunk of the room behind and around Biden—including the stage—was empty (presumably so that the remainder of the auditorium wouldn’t look half-empty).
Normally, a person would address the crowd from the stage in that auditorium, but the stage is empty. Something tells me that had Biden’s campaign really needed the space for more people, they would have moved Biden onto the stage, and put out more chairs. Judging from the pictures in this local CBS News story, estimating even 100 attendees would be generous. Berlin is not a big town (pop. 10,000), but only 100 people show up to see the frontrunner? Seriously?
My father a little older than Biden (Dad is 82, and has health issues), and I see a lot of my father in Biden (and I don’t mean that in a good way). Biden is 76 and moves slowly and carefully. He knows he needs to maintain verticality for an hour, so he paces himself. No rapid movements, no exertions—a man of Biden’s advanced years knows better than to take risks. If he has to turn, he does it deliberately, gradually. If he has to make a gesture, he is careful, unhurried. A near-octogenarian survivor of two brain surgeries should not be overactive. “The Walking Dead” are paragons of vitality compared to Grandpa Joe.
But Biden decided to do two—count ’em, two!—events in New Hampshire on Tuesday. The second one was at a small union hall in Concord (pop. 43,000.) My estimate of the attendance from news reports is 150 people, and that’s being generous. But, fine, let’s call it 200 even. This time, Biden, who was looking quite fragile at that point, had a lectern to lean on occasionally.
So Biden goes to New Hampshire for a big campaign day, makes two scheduled campaign appearances, and maybe 300 voters show up to see him. Total. This is a frontrunner? For Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), with her 0.7 percent in the polls, going to New Hampshire and scaring up 300 voters would be very respectable. For John Hickenlooper, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet, Mayor Pete, that woman self-help guru, and most of the other 173 Democratic candidates, doing the same would be most impressive.
But Biden is the frontrunner! More voters supposedly love Grandpa Biden than love the rest of the Democratic candidates combined. So where heck are the voters who want to vote for him??
On Wednesday, Biden was in Boston, but not to meet voters. He was still recuperating from his New Hampshire visit the day before. Biden was in town to meet some big-dollar fat cats for a fundraiser. Hundreds of thousands of eager Massachusetts voters will have to wait.
Back in May, there was talk of a big June 5 event in Atlanta, but that was apparently too much for Ol’ Grandpa Joe. Forget Atlanta—Biden might show up for a fundraiser, but no voters.
Biden’s campaign flunkies will insist that all this doesn’t mean a thing. Grandpa Biden is just getting started! Ol’ Joe is doing great! Don’t worry about those poll numbers sliding toward 30 percent (from more than 40 percent). Joe’s got a plan! Voters can’t get enough of him—he reminds them of Obama’s glory days! (Incidentally, Biden loves saying “Barack and I…” every chance he gets.)
There is something Hillary-esque about all this. Hillary Clinton, too, was the frontrunner. Clinton, too, was loved by millions—or so the journos at CNN and Washington Post told us. Clinton, too, was the overwhelming favorite to win. And Clinton was also medically unfit for a long campaign.
Oddly enough, the crowds weren’t showing up for Hillary, either. Donald Trump was filling arenas in 2016, and Clinton had trouble filling a high school gym. Her staffers had to reserve smaller and smaller venues, to avoid the glaring images of the empty seats. This way, she could always say “Oh, gosh, look at all those people outside—we should have gotten a bigger place!” (As if it was someone else who couldn’t risk a bigger venue.)
And now Biden is struggling to make a virtue out of medical necessity and to justify why he is out of sight most days. Of course, the comparison only goes so far. Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton. For one thing, he hasn’t gone into a near-coma from “bronchitis.” And yet . . .
Photo Credit: Scott Eisen/Getty Images