Lost Cause. Incredible Comeback. Lost Cause.

The Joe Biden campaign.

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. August 15, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Campaigning in the Time of Coronavirus

Some presidential campaigns have adapted far better than others.

For Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the cancellation of the large-scale rallies and town-hall events that typify their respective campaigns was a devastating loss. But both campaigns, to varying degrees of effectiveness, have risen to the challenge, not just in responding to COVID-19, but in keeping their political campaigns moving forward.

For Donald Trump, assuming the role of daily debriefer-in-chief has been enough to move the needle upward on his approval ratings, much to the dismay of his Democratic rivals.

Trump’s campaign is also, very unfortunately for Democrats, well ahead of the technological curve on digital campaigning.

At first, COVID-19 looked like it might hurt Donald Trump’s chances at reelection. Depending on how things play out over the next few weeks and months, it still might. But for the short-term at least, it looks like it may be helping him in the polls.

Trump’s overall approval rating has reached an all-time high and his approval rating, as it pertains to his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, is 15 points higher than that of his chief rival.

Trump’s chief rival being the U.S. media.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his campaign have also been adept at responding to the outbreak and its attendant economic shut-down. The Sanders campaign has used the time to raise over $3.5 million for coronavirus relief.

Sanders has also been busily organizing livestream broadcasts with public health officials and lawmakers. His team has organized digital volunteers to form public service announcement campaigns and labor officials to push for better working conditions at Amazon and other companies that have become the front-line in the fight against COVID-19.

In stark contrast; the Joe Biden campaign, much to the increasing chagrin of the Democratic Party establishment that propelled Biden to the forefront only a few short weeks ago, has not adapted very well at all.

The story of the Biden campaign has already been one of humiliating lows and a Lazarus-like return from oblivion. From the beginning, the Biden campaign seemed determined to go where poorly-run campaigns go to die.

Then, something funny happened on the way to obscurity; Sen. Bernie Sanders started to run away with the contest and the Democratic Party panic-bought a stockpile of Joe Biden.

A couple of strategic endorsements, a coordinated elimination of all the other remaining competitors in the race, and a deft consolidation of their support later, Joe Biden was suddenly a shoo-in for the nomination.

Then, a very strange thing happened on the way to Joe Biden’s surprising comeback and cinching of the Democratic nomination: COVID-19.

The Atlantic is right: Joe Biden is the Candidate of the Resistance. And this is not good news for the resistance. In the wake of COVID-19, the Joe Biden campaign appears to have crumbled to point of collapse.

First, Biden took a prolonged break from the airwaves. This was, in itself, a shocking choice considering Biden had been gathering momentum to that point. That Democratic voters were looking for reassurance from someone they trusted more than Donald Trump presented an opportunity for Biden. It was an opportunity on which Biden failed to capitalize.

Once former Vice President Joe Biden reappeared, his supporters were left wishing he had maintained silence.

After the first disastrous attempt at an online broadcast ended with Biden wandering off camera and not returning, his subsequent attempts were hardly better.

Democratic voters, it would seem, were not overly reassured by Joe Biden reading prepared remarks from a teleprompter for ten minutes. Nor were they much impressed with Biden’s next attempts to break into the news cycle with a series of rambling, partially incoherent interviews.

The former Vice President has indicated he is not interested in having any more debates against Bernie Sanders. Judging by Biden’s poor response during COVID-19, it is easy to see why.

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Biden campaign in recent days. That the Biden campaign is still mastering the art of the Zoom conference call while his rivals are spinning technological circles around him and his lack on an online campaign platform is no longer Biden’s biggest problem.

A former Biden campaign staffer has come forward with an accusation that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her while she was working for him in the mid-90’s. The Biden campaign has denied the accusation.

The former Biden campaign staffer, Tara Reade, isn’t the only woman to have accused Joe Biden of acting inappropriately and touching them in ways that has made them feel uncomfortable.

This development presents a hard challenge for a Democratic Party that has been very vocal in its demands that women who come forward with accusations of sexual harassment or assault be believed without questions about due process and presumed innocence under the law.

Especially in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, “believe women” has become a sort-of progressive catch-phrase. Biden himself has called for any prominent man accused of sexual impropriety to resign.

Anyone wondering if the Democratic establishment might be looking for a way out of making Joe Biden the Democratic nominee need look no further than rumors that a “draft Andrew Cuomo” effort may soon be underway.

Democrats who support Bernie Sanders need look no further for evidence that the Democratic Party is more determined than ever to keep the nomination from Sanders, either.

As the Democratic Party has stumbled through this primary season, and especially through the COVID-19 outbreak, supporters of Bernie Sanders have grown increasingly disgruntled with party elites.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has always been a staunch advocate for the universal health care system that is perhaps more relevant today than ever. His voting record, and his track record, fit the liberal progressive model better than anyone else running.

It might be time for the Democratic Party to stop asking what it will take to push Joe Biden over the finish line and start asking what it will take to win Democratic moderates over to Bernie Sanders.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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