Joe Biden delivered a solid, if overhyped, speech last night accepting his party’s nomination for the highest office in the land. It effectively put a cap on the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and summed up the Democrats’ case thus: Joe Biden is a good and kind man; Donald Trump is not. Biden’s decency has been hugely exaggerated, as my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru has explained at Bloomberg Opinion, but he does seem a Boy Scout compared with his opponent. Moreover, excepting the woman who accused Trump of killing her father and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s cringeworthy polemics last night, the DNC was specifically and effectively built around highlighting the gap in their characters. Biden, the lifetime public servant persevering through unthinkable personal tragedies, and who spends his free time mentoring children with the same stuttering problem he was once afflicted with, was persuasively contrasted with Trump, the president of Charlottesville and QAnon.
Trump and his team have played right into Biden’s hands too. Instead of making the positive case for his reelection by focusing on the real accomplishments of his administration — tax cuts, two Supreme Court Justices, the deaths of Qasem Soleimani and Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, etc. — the Trump campaign has focused on portraying Biden as senile. Making that portrayal central to its strategy always seemed misguided, and Biden’s speech last night confirmed those suspicions. Never set the bar so low for your rivals.
It’s no one-way street though; the candidate is failing his campaign just as the campaign is failing the candidate. Feeding into the contrast in characters on his Twitter account, the president teed off on John McCain yesterday morning, calling him a “lousy candidate.” This attack on a dead war hero and former GOP nominee for president came less than 24 hours after the Biden campaign debuted a moving video about his friendship with McCain, in which McCain’s widow, Cindy, makes an appearance.
As a matter of pure politics, Trump and his campaign are being outclassed. Joe Biden is a vanilla candidate, but he is plagued with neither the unpleasantness of Hillary Clinton nor the incompetence of her campaign’s architects. If present trends hold and the Trump campaign proves unwilling to adjust course, Biden’s kind and reasonable affect should be more than enough to deliver him the White House, and perhaps allow the Democrats to ride his coattails to a Senate majority as well.