If you go back to late 2019/early 2020, you see a constant meme running through the headlines. “Biden campaign on ‘life support’.” the Hill advised on Oct. 25. 2019. On Feb. 12, the Guardian ran an opinion piece with the nearly identical title “Joe Biden’s campaign is on life support,” and on Feb. 20, on the eve of the South Carolina primary, Vox quoted Barack Obama’s 2008 South Carolina political director, Anton Gunn, as saying. “South Carolina voters are smart and they don’t want a campaign that’s on life support.”
In those days, even Democrats viewed Biden as old and out-of-touch amid a still-flush field of younger, more dynamic, far-left Democratic contenders. The Biden campaign was having difficulty raising money, and the former vice president’s fate as a third-time candidate for his party’s nomination seemed sealed.
Fast-forward two months, and Biden is leading Donald Trump in all the opinion polls and racking up the endorsements. The RealClear Politics national average has Biden ahead by a comfortable, if not insurmountable, 6.3-point lead.
So what changed? How did Biden go from being written off to the presumptive Democratic nominee? Did we all miss an uplifting speech that he gave, reassuring the nation that he was not a feeble, failing septuagenarian but a visionary capable of steering the ship of state away from the rocky shoals of a pandemic? No, because there was no such speech. There was a speech by South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn that many agree helped put Biden over the top in that state’s primary. But it’s hard to believe that that speech, however rousing it might have been, was by itself the turning point — a catalyst that salvaged Biden’s foundering campaign.
Instead, the difference, I believe, was the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the DNC to force Bernie Sanders, who had no chance of winning, out of the race. The party had tried doing that to Biden earlier in the race, gently urging him to call it quits.
Even now, despite his lead in the polls, Biden is unable to generate enthusiasm among voters. Indeed there is very little in his halting and gaffe-filled attempts at public speaking to inspire confidence. (RELATED: Joe Biden does battle with a teleprompter. Spoiler alert: The teleprompter wins)
Democrats’ only hope is that candidate Biden remains healthy long enough to win the election, after which he can step down and his female running mate can assume the duties of president.
That’s never happened before in the history of the country. There’s little reason to think that it will happen now, when the chips are down.