Democrats are publicly talking about “contingency options” for their July convention in Milwaukee in case the coronavirus persists in being a public-health threat. But privately, some are also talking about needing a Plan B if Joe Biden, their nominee apparent, continues to flounder.
Some Democrats are openly talking up New York governor Andrew Cuomo, whose profile has soared during the crisis, as a Biden stand-in. Yesterday, a Draft Cuomo 2020 account on Twitter announced that “Times have changed & we need Gov. Cuomo to be the nominee. Our next POTUS must be one w/an ability to lead thru this crisis.”
Charles Pierce, the politics blogger for Esquire magazine, wrote a piece headlined “With Two Words, Andrew Cuomo Established Himself as the Leader This Country Needs Now.” He enthused that Cuomo’s news conference last Friday “essentially (shutting) down the economy of his state . . . was a master class in leveling with the public.”
Fueled by favorable national publicity that governors rarely get, Cuomo has quickly become the standard-bearer for liberals who don’t want to quickly open up parts the economy at the same time we combat the coronavirus. This Tuesday, the governor tweeted: “We are not willing to sacrifice 1-2% of New Yorkers. That’s not who we are. We will fight to save every life we can. I am not giving up.” Last weekend, Cuomo told reporters he might go into Manhattan himself to yell “You are wrong” at people defying his lockdown.
Democrats are increasingly worried that Joe Biden will have trouble being relevant and compelling in the long four months between now and when he is nominated in July. Lloyd Constantine, who was a senior policy adviser to New York governor Eliot Spitzer from 2007 to 2008, puts it bluntly: “Biden is a melting ice cube. Those of us who have closely watched as time ravaged the once sharp or even brilliant minds of loved ones and colleagues, recognize what is happening to the good soldier Joe.”
Indeed, Biden seemed to disappear when the virus began dominating the news cycle early in March. Biden’s media presence “abruptly shriveled,” writes Kalev Leetaru, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. In contrast, daily mentions of Cuomo as of last Sunday “accounted for 1.4 percent of online news coverage compared with 2.9 percent for Trump.”
In an attempt to remain relevant, Biden’s campaign team hastily built a TV studio in the basement of his Wilmington, Del., home and began streaming daily appearances by him from it this week. They have not gone well.
In his first outing on Monday, Biden looked as he were lost somewhere on the set of Wayne’s World, the 1990s comedy movie that pretended it was a public-access cable show broadcast from a basement.
Biden stumbled, slurred his words, misnamed one of the nation’s governors, lost his train of thought, and had to desperately signal to staff for help while he was on camera.
A Tuesday appearance went no better, even though it was with a friendly liberal group of interviewers from ABC’s The View. “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what — no matter what,” Biden asserted to universal head scratching. He attempted to pick up on Cuomo’s assertion that lives must be the absolute priority in the crisis — but with limited success: “I don‘t agree with the notion that somehow it’s okay to let the — let people die and I’m not sure that would happen.”