The reaction to the nickname President Trump bestowed upon Joe Biden, “Sleepy Joe,” when the former vice president announced he planned to throw his hat into the ring was mixed, but recent news reports show Trump was on to something.
Just one month ago, after months of teasing the public, Biden officially announced he would run for the Democratic presidential nomination a third time. The last two runs were in the 1988 and 2008 presidential primaries.
Here is @Morning_Joe slobbering all over itself to prop up @JoeBiden….the same way they did for Donald Trump in 2015/2016. Joe & Mika Tell Their Pal Biden NOT TO APOLOGIZE FOR ANYTHING…elites really do push their own no matter what. pic.twitter.com/SGaH88EAXS
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) May 15, 2019
He entered the race as the front-runner and took in a $6.3 million haul over a 24-hour period. According to USA Today, it was the largest fundraising number of any candidate in the Democratic primary field. Democratic members of Congress appeared pleased that Biden jumped in and over a dozen threw their support behind him.
However, the excitement about Biden appeared to be coming from the Democratic Party establishment gasping a sigh of relief that previous front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders could be prevented from winning the nomination.
“The lack of crowd interest for Biden: he’s not interesting. They already know him. And they don’t like being told what the polls tell them they are supposed to feel or to do…”
“There is this dynamic tension between wanting to win and wanting to be inspired,” Karen Finney, a top Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign told NPR.
She continued, “Part of wanting to win is there is a mood in the country for, I don’t like to say going back to normalcy, but to establish a new normal that you feel confident that the person in charge knows what he’s doing or she’s doing.”
Finney added, “And there’s something about Biden, partially because he has the experience on the big stage with Obama that reminds you what that’s like.”
Biden’s support from powerful traditional party apparatus members and his previous platform from the White House translate to big numbers in the polls and the campaign war chest but according to Politico, turn out at political events is thin, especially compared to some of his Democratic opponents who are polling lower than he is.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg reportedly had larger crowds than Biden did in Iowa during their first visits to the state, as opposed to the smaller crowds Biden drew on his first visit to Iowa.
“This is the classic challenge of the moderate candidate. They tend not to generate intense and active support–hence the low turnout numbers for rallies—but have broad support in general election polls as Biden does,” said Democratic strategist Doug Schoen.
Schoen says that “Biden’s challenge for the primary is to build enthusiasm for the early caucus and primary states, with a bold agenda, but not one that will hurt him with swing voters in the general election.”
Politico noted that Biden has not drawn the kinds of crowds of other opponents in the primary either. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris drew 20,000 in Oakland to see her and 13,000 Sanders’ supporters came out for his campaign launch in Brooklyn.
Biden held a campaign rally in Philadelphia near his campaign headquarters and local reporters estimated around 6,000 showed up to cheer him on but even that number was considered to be a little too high, one elected official told Politico.
Additionally, Biden is not making himself as accessible to the public as he is usually known to do. The Washington Post reports that Biden had 11 public events while former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke had almost four times that in the same period.
“Americans of both parties allow candidates to be tortured in public in contests valuing endurance more that policy positions.
The lack of crowd interest for Biden: he’s not interesting. They already know him. And they don’t like being told what the polls tell them they are supposed to feel or to do,” Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.
“Young people, women, and minority group members—critical turn out groups for any Democrat—are either anxious or excited by Biden. Bet on anxious,” he added.
Biden has skipped town hall forums hosted by different interest groups, including MoveOn, a well-known liberal activist group. Eight other Democratic candidates will be at their Big Ideas Forum, according to The Post but not Biden.
This change in accessibility to Biden is different as capitol hill reporters had always known Biden to be relatively available to them as a senator.
Although Biden is known to gaffe and has much to answer for in terms of flipping policy positions recently, buckling him up to the point of hoping he does not gaffe may not be the wisest decision his campaign makes either.
Fears remain that Biden could suffer the same fate as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2016—a well-financed, high name ID initial front-runner who was well liked by the party establishment but hated by the base. Sleepy Joe meet Low Energy Jeb.