Old news, teetering on the verge of remaining that way, is now actually poised on becoming “big news” again: Joe Biden, as political pre-season melds into the genuine race for the White House, has, in spite of himself, weathered some rough debate outings and has lurched ahead somehow back into the cocooned safety of Democratic front-runner.
Yes, Ol’ Joe, who loves to call himself and others “Champ,” is “big news” again.
It’s a pretty remarkable development, given Mr. Biden’s pummeling by California Sen. Kamala Harris in the first debate and his better but still uneven performance in the second. Nonetheless, he is back to a double-digit lead, or roughly where he was when he officially entered the race. And this is hardly to say the Democratic contest has been static. So many of his opponents have had their day — Ms. Harris, for example, at his expense, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke early on, and then South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
And this is not even to mention Mr. Biden’s two foremost foes — Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. While Mr. Sanders seems to be hanging in on waving arms and past glories, his campaign a ghost of four years ago, Ms. Warren, whether you agree with her or not — we most definitely do not — has run a relentless and effective campaign. But after the smoke cleared after the debates, neither she nor Mr. Sanders had gained little, if any, ground on Mr. Biden.
How so? Aren’t they the ones with the progressive ideas about, say, health care? And what of Mr. Biden? Blessed (in his case perhaps) or cursed with few, if any, real ideas, he seemingly mopes along, taking punches “rope-a-dope”-style, and is still standing despite his own goofs and gaffes (witness his effort to give an online address to support his campaign).
So there must be a reason for this — and, for the moment, there is. Mr. Biden isn’t just “Ol’ Joe, but “Uncle Joe.” People — Democratic people — seem to like him, African Americans and older Americans, for instance. Thus, he is given the best shot at beating President Trump.
CNN’s Joe Lockhart, former press secretary to President Clinton, goes a bit melodramatic, when he calls a Trump-Biden contest a battle for “the soul of the country.” Neither man has the gravitas for that sort of tussle on the high philosophical plains. If the clash were to come about, it could come down to which candidate makes the fewer bombastic mistakes or irritates the nation less.
Remember, though, Mr. Biden’s campaigns have a way of self-imploding — remember the lifting of remarks from British politician Neil Kinnock in 1987? And, as well we know, few have an idea what Mr. Trump will do next.
It might be an entertaining scramble to watch.