All electoral politics are an exercise in theater. But the moment that confronts the Joe Biden campaign is unique in just how large the stage is and how consequential the action.
The presidential candidate who just two weeks ago appeared on life support now finds himself in a situation that is as advantageous as it is delicate. He will likely be the Democratic nominee. But any overt steps to assume the mantle risk coming off as presumptuous, which would offend Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his supporters and, by extension, hurt his chances in the general. At the same time, the unfolding catastrophe around the spread of the coronavirus has created the type of leadership vacuum ripe for a former vice president to fill.
Much of that vacuum is owed to the fact that the pandemic is an especially difficult challenge for President Donald Trump. It requires bureaucratic acumen, a respect for science, and a lengthy record of accountability and credibility. Trump suffers on all of these fronts. He has consistently downplayed the severity of the virus, overstated the capacity of the government to handle it, and offered far-too-rosy prognostications about its economic impact.