BOSTON (CBS) – Watch Joe Biden’s announcement video. Notice what isn’t in it that you would normally expect to hear in a candidate kickoff speech?
Biden doesn’t talk about himself. No biography, no self-description, no detail on what he’d bring to the Oval Office.
For now, he doesn’t need to. Biden’s consistent showing at or close to the top of the polls reflects his name recognition. After two previous presidential runs and eight years as vice president, people know who he is, for better or worse.
The familiarity of decades in the public eye will be both blessing and curse for Biden going forward.
We’ve already seen his critics pick away at questionable moments in Biden’s career – his long-ago resistance to school desegregation proposals, his skeptical treatment of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment charges against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, his handsy style when greeting women in public settings. Those criticisms, his age and awkward fit with his own party’s drift toward identify politics, and his own goofiness and occasional diarrhea of the mouth will likely put a ceiling on his potential primary vote totals.
But could the particular circumstances of this election cycle also add value to Biden’s familiarity to voters?
Every election is about something different. Sometimes, after a long slog with one party in control of the White House, voters clamor for a change of pace – enter John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, George W. Bush in 2000 – and Donald Trump in 2016.
Sometimes, as with the youthful Kennedy or the outsider/firebreathing Trump, it’s a dramatic change. But Nixon and Bush were certified establishment figures.
What will the swing voters want in 2020?
If I knew for sure, I’d be wagering heavily, and after November 3, 2020 you’d never hear from me again as I follow summer around the world.
But here’s a guess – this election is going to be a referendum on Trump. And there’s a case to be made that the smartest move for the Democrats is to nominate the candidate who is least-objectionable to the moderate-to-conservative voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania (Biden’s birth state), thus keeping the focus where they want it – on the migraine-inducing, in-your-face stridency of the incumbent.
In that video, Biden is saying it’s not about me, it’s about Trump, and whether or not the swing voters feel good about another four years of him.
Inspirational? Maybe not.
A winning message?
We’re about to find out.