Joe Biden’s leadership in the presidential race has not changed much since he went up to the nomination, and the last few days are helping to explain why.
The former fabric has refused to be strongly drawn into the issue that has fired Washington, Twitter, the press and Liberal Democrats everywhere: the sudden vacancy in the Supreme Court.
Biden leads President Trump by about 6 points on average for Real Clear Politics, a little narrower than the margin that has mostly hovered around 8 or 9 points while sometimes stretching in double digits (and yes, some battlefield states are even more competitive).
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He did not lose the lead during the pandemic. He did not drop it under the lock. He did not lose it during the protests and riots, which caused many kennels ̵
Now some of this can be explained by the fact that Trump, who dominates the news, and Biden, who has been in politics for 47 years, are so famous. Both men’s public views are pretty much in stone, except for a shrinking core of undecided who in half a dozen states are likely to decide the election.
But in the wake of Trump’s urgency to fill the position held by Ruth Bader Ginsburg – an attempt that became a security with Mitt Romney’s support yesterday – Biden stood in his place.
It may have been tempting to launch a hair-on-fire crusade against Trump’s move, given that Biden worked with Barack Obama in a failed attempt to pressure Senate Republicans to vote for Merrick Garland.
And yet, when Biden gave a nearly half-hour speech in Wisconsin on Monday, he did not even mention the Supreme Court.
“It was the clearest sign so far of Biden’s belief that most voters are not animated by the divisive struggle that is consuming many in Washington,” the Washington Post said.
I’m not sure the calculation is correct, but I know that Biden is selling himself as a calm and measured dealmaker who would initiate a return to normalcy.
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This is how he asked Mitch McConnell and the company not to shoot a Trump candidate six weeks before the election:
“Action and reaction, anger and more anger, sadness and frustration over how things are in this country now politically. That is the cycle that Republican senators will continue to pursue if they take the dangerous path. He urged GOP lawmakers to “step down”, “follow your conscience” and “do not go there.” Which had exactly zero impact.
It is now clear that Biden is measuring his impact on the news cycle, as when the Green Bay station WBAY asked him about the court’s vacancy.
“It’s a legitimate question, but let me tell you why I will not answer that question. Because it will shift focus. That’s what he wants. He never wants to talk about the current issue and he always tries to change the subject. Let’s say I answer that question, then the whole debate will be about what Biden said or did not say, Biden said he would or would not. ”
And that’s true. Biden would have made headlines, Trump would have responded and the Democratic nominee would have seemed like just another fighter in the swamp.
And besides, he would have lost. Trump will have his candidate, probably Amy Coney Barrett, on the Supreme Court when he announces his election on Saturday. Biden would have wasted his political capital.
His only strike in SCOTUS politics has been to remind voters that ObamaCare is waiting in the Supreme Court, raising the prospect of people losing insurance in the midst of a pandemic that is still his main issue.
Nor have Biden joined like the AOC, Joe Kennedy and Ed Markey – not to mention Jeff Toobin and Don Lemon – to urge Democrats to neutralize Trump’s third justice by adding court seats if they take over next year.
“For the progressive,” says Politico, “the court package could be the new Medicare for everyone.
“Joe Biden is registered as opposed to both reforms.”
Court packaging is not exactly a reform, but a biased grip on power that some Democrats now see as motivated given the GOP’s hardball tactics. Biden has not joined that choir and said during the summer that he is against packing the court. A creature from the Senate, he does not like to break institutional norms.
This feels like an echo of the democratic primaries when liberal commentators based Biden for refusing to support Bernie’s government – run health care or later the police movement. Biden does not excite the base, to be sure, but it takes discipline to resist jumping on the latest left thing.
And that’s why the race has been remarkably stable.