For half a century, across three presidential runs he made and three more he thought about making, Joe Biden had never won a single primary delegate before his South Carolina romp in February catapulted him to the Democratic nomination. But his strategy never changed. Biden won the White House the same way he won his first race, for New Castle County council in 1970: by being himself.
He won while giving the same speeches, and telling literally the same stories, that he had for years. This time, what he was offering fit the moment. He won because he was a reaction to Trump, but also because he was a white guy who could connect with white guys even as his association with Barack Obama helped legitimize him with Black voters. He updated some of his policy positions to fit where his party had moved—and to respond to the pandemic. But he didn’t swing hard left, or hard right. He was established enough to not seem a revolutionary in a year of politics stretched between poles, but still offered enough of a contrast to win progressives’ support—if only as a tool to remove Trump. Throughout, he was boosted by voters’ sense of his personality, from the people who cried in the arms of a man they felt could ease their pain to all the union guys who saw their stories in his Norman Rockwell tales of Scranton.
And he did it as COVID-19 kept him and other Democrats mostly away from the door-knocking, big volunteer gatherings, and major rallies that they usually need to win elections. Biden’s brand proved better than Trump’s. And it proved better than many other Democrats’ on Tuesday too.
“What a lot of pundits and a lot of Democratic activists didn’t understand is that people were exhausted by the drama of Trump. They were exhausted by the partisanship,” Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who had tried to help Pete Buttigieg stake out the same space in the primaries, told me. “What Biden offered was being a calming voice. People wanted a Mister Rogers and not a Hulk Hogan as the nominee.” [Continue reading…]