From his promise of a return to the Obama era to his current focus on Trump’s coronavirus response, the Biden campaign’s pitch is a return to safety. Ava DeSantis writes on what the new campaign focus on coronavirus might say about American voters.
A Biden campaign staffer told the Washington Post, “from really January on, Vice President Biden has been laser focused on the rising risk to the American people presented by this pandemic.” This comes only a few days after the Biden campaign launched a successful ad centering Trump’s admission that he encouraged officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down.” The President of the progressive group American Bridge, Bradley Beychok, said they believe “what people care about is this outbreak.”
The analytics director of progressive PAC Priorities USA, Nick Ahamed, said the virus “really made concrete for people the ways in which his leadership has direct consequences on them and their loved ones… It’s easier to make ads that talk about his leadership than before the outbreak.” The Biden campaign is relying on the idea that Americans will draw this connection, and are scared of the impact COVID-19 will have on their families. Biden uses provocative language about the virus, accusing the President of having “surrendered” to the virus.
The President believes the democratic ads responding to his coronavirus response had the desired effect. On Fox News, Trump called the ad on his comment about decreasing testing, “a great ad for them.” The Biden campaign was always about safety, from COVID-19, from Trump, from a post-Obama era; that avenue might work against Trump.
In 2019, a Harvard-Harris poll reported that the plurality of Democrats label themselves as an “Obama Democrat.” The Biden campaign has consistently offered a return to the Obama era, since the beginning of his campaign. When he announced his campaign in April 2019, Biden said “[Trump] will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.” On the debate stage for the democratic party nomination, Sen. Cory Booker accused Biden of “[invoking] President Obama more than anybody in this campaign.”
Vice President Biden’s current focus on coronavirus makes clear that his ode to Obama was always a promise of a return to safety, everything pre-Trump. Like President Trump’s successful appeal to the fears of a declining white middle class, Biden’s success in 2020 will serve as a marker of how afraid Americans are of the pandemic and the impact of Trump’s response.
A Trump vs. Biden race will decide: are Americans more afraid of Trump’s fear-mongering over declining white supremacy, increased immigration, changing social mores, or the atmosphere it has created?