Finley: Wherever Joe is, keep him there

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Read the headlines, and you wouldn’t think President Donald Trump is doing much right in his management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coverage is nearly 100% negative.

And if you watch his daily briefings, Trump confirms his bad press. He's rambling, contradictory and embarrassingly boastful of his success, considering people are still dying of the virus in alarming numbers.

As seen through a window, President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Thursday, March 26, 2020, in Washington.

And yet, as has become the curious trend throughout his tumultuous presidency, the worse his clippings, the more the electorate rallies to him.

At the end of a week in which new cases and fatalities mushroomed, governors accused his administration of bungling the distribution of tests and protective gear, and unemployment claims hit 3.5 million, Trump is more popular than at any previous point in his tenure.

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He hit all-time high marks Friday in new approval polls, including the ABC News/Washington Post survey that had him at 48-46 and Fox News, which registered his popularity at 48%.

Despite intense condemnation of his crisis management skills, nearly every survey found a majority of Americans think he’s doing a good job fighting the virus.

And Joe Biden's lead over Trump nationally and in Michigan slipped to just 3 percentage points.

None of that is good news for Democratic hopes to exploit Trump's bumbling of the pandemic to retake the White House this fall.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

Trump continues to have a relationship with the electorate that defies conventional political logic. His popularity goes up in correlation with the hate heaped upon him. Consider that his previous biggest surge came during the impeachment proceedings.

But the question with Trump is always what he'll do or say next to deflate his own balloon. You know it's coming.

And when it does, is Biden, the Democratic front-runner, positioned to pounce? Hardly.

Biden has disappeared. Nobody much is talking about him during this crisis, and few seem to be pining for his leadership. When the cameras do find him, he offers nothing to convince voters he's their savior-in-waiting.

The former vice president should be well prepared for this moment. Yet he appears disconnected, repeating Democratic talking points without passion and throwing weak punches at Trump. 

Biden always is best as a concept. Before he officially entered the Democratic presidential race, his poll numbers were huge. But once under the scrutiny of the campaign trail, his serial gaffes and frequent lucidity lapses drove supporters away. Until just six weeks ago he appeared not to have a chance. 

It wasn’t until Democrats realized it was either Biden or the socialist Bernie Sanders that they rallied to prop up Ol’ Joe.

Now, the Biden campaign is looking for a way to insert him into the pandemic conversation to revive his presidential bid. But they’re struggling to find the appropriate entry point.

They might be better off keeping him tucked away and letting this race be all about Trump. If the president indeed has a Teflon coating, it's thin. You’ve gotta bet he'll find a way to self-destruct.

Wherever Joe Biden is, he might be smart to stay there and let his reputation carry the load his reality can no longer pack.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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