For Joe Biden, there’s no doubt that the 2020 primary season got off to a particularly brutal start. After distant finishes unbecoming of a famed frontrunner in Iowa’s marred caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary, followed by a distant second-place finish in Nevada, all eyes nervously turned toward South Carolina.
Having applied a somewhat rickety tourniquet in “The Silver State”, the former vice president could hardly afford to suffer additional injury—much less incur a grievous electoral wound—in the prelude to the make-or-break pitched battles of “Super Tuesday”. And perhaps true to his newfound “Comeback Kid” moniker, South Carolina proved determined to see Biden enter 2020’s most consequential contests without a limp.
But what can Biden do in the few days that remain—and with a depleted war chest—to ensure that his oft-invoked firewall isn’t just a springboard for marginally competitive finishes on Super Tuesday, but rather, becomes the staging point for a victory-adorned rebound?
There’s only one clear course of action, to get out of the proverbial corner and start marching forward with purpose. Not throwing errant nationwide punches like a desperate brawler, but moving with local grace like a venerable ring general. To launch a uniquely Joe Biden counter-offensive.
And while he can’t compete with Bernie Sanders’ populist ferocity, he can be the calm elder statesman America so desperately craves. He may not possess the recently withdrawn Pete Buttigieg’s appealing outsider status, but he can forcefully remind voters why he’s long been a productive mainstay in American politics. Though he can’t dim Michael Bloomberg’s wealth-induced notoriety, he can utilize existing media infrastructure to elevate his own candidate profile.
The time to hit the pavement has undoubtedly become scarce, but the sand hasn’t run out of the hourglass yet. There’s still enough time to garner abundant media attention, to shrink the gap. Enough time to launch local media blitzes, to leave polling place-bound primary voters with one name boisterously rattling around in their heads.
So why not temporarily shelve the pack playbook that has largely led to stagnation and go back to the basics, to embrace his penultimate strengths? Why not capitalize on his infectious affability and his mastery of both heartening dialogue and retail politics?
Let’s see Joe Biden pop into the newsrooms of local TV stations—either in person or via satellite—from Raleigh’s WTVD to Houston’s KPRC, and issue short impromptu modern equivalents of FDR’s “fireside chats”. Sell himself as the antidote to the widespread societal angst that has fueled corrosive left and right populism. In a conversational tone, reach directly into voters’ homes and present a healing vision for America. Address specific kitchen table issues that resonate with each individual state’s residents, issues from education to healthcare.
Let’s see him sit down with—or phone— an array of the Super Tuesday states’ newspapers, and not just goliaths like the Los Angeles Times, but also smaller contemporaries ranging from the Dallas Morning News to The Virginian-Pilot. Talk about pressing local issues ranging from homelessness and child poverty to food insecurity. Let people know that they’re not faceless spokes on a wheel, that their communities are not easily forgotten dots on a map. Remind them that anyone can stoke the flames of anxiety, but only one candidate can succeed in extinguishing them.
Now nothing is to say that elections are predictable, or that the hypothesized sequence of events will come to fruition. After all, densely packed primaries are notoriously unwieldy beasts. However, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the muted passivity of standard operating procedures can provide a serviceable mechanism for spawning, much less sustaining, a campaign renaissance.
The strategic alternative, however, could very well kick open Super Tuesday’s door. A coast-to-coast local media blitz might just succeed in drowning out rivals by directly capturing airwaves and dominating the social media newsfeeds of audiences that are exponentially larger than those currently being spoken to. It could ultimately pin down demographically-amenable metropolitan strongholds from Charlotte and Memphis to Birmingham and San Antonio, while facilitating the delegate-siphoning infiltration of potential bastions stretching from Boston to San Francisco.
So for a fairly cash-strapped presidential candidate, why not, in the last hour, dramatically ramp-up the utilization of existent local media infrastructure to meaningfully increase visibility? Why not embrace a capital-free—and far-reaching—strategy that doesn’t just play to Biden’s unique strengths, but confidently reasserts the viability of the Biden brand itself?
(Featured Image “Official Portrait of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden“, by White House photographer Andrew Cutraro, as the work of a federal employee the image is within the public domain/cropped from original.)