S.E. Cupp: What Joe Biden can learn from Pete Buttigieg
So far, he’s hitting it out of the park.
Less than one week after Joe Biden announced he’s running for president — again — he’s in an enviable spot. He smashed all 2020 subsequent one-day fundraising records, bringing in a whopping $6.3 million on his first day. A new CNN poll of Democratic candidates shows Biden with a sizable lead at 39%, with Bernie Sanders second at 15%. A Quinnipiac survey has a similar margin with Biden at 38%, with Warren in second at 12% (with Sanders third at 11%).
And his strategy to start his campaign by reminding Americans what President Trump said after the Nazi protests in Charlottesville left one woman dead was met, by all accounts, with its intended reaction. Biden drew Trump into the debate he wants to have — about moral character — and Trump responded with a flurry of reflexive tweets. In the words of New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, “What [Trump’s] doing is elevating Joe Biden and basically turning this into a one-on-one between himself and Joe Biden 18 months ahead of time.”
Of course, Biden still faces plenty of challenges: a far-left wing of his party that dismisses him as insufficiently progressive, decidedly old guard and a vestige of pre-partisan politics.
Finally, there’s Mayor Pete. Until Biden jumped in, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was convincingly occupying the lane Biden was meant to dominate — moderate Democrats. Buttigieg’s enormously effective charm offensive catapulted him to the top of the field. As different as they are in terms of background and resume, Biden and Buttigieg are now facing off for many of the same voters.
Biden could learn something important from the rookie. One of the ways Buttigieg has managed to break through a crowded field has been his stunning accessibility. As Politico recently pointed out, he’s made himself available to anyone from Indianapolis Monthly to radio host Charlamagne tha God, an environmental newsletter with 5,000 Twitter followers to a podcast about “The West Wing,” Bill Maher to Barstool Sports.
With decades in politics and nearly 100% name ID, it would be intuitive to think Biden didn’t really need to take this approach. Where Mayor Pete needs to introduce himself to America, Uncle Joe is already a well-known member of the family.
But this is exactly Biden’s problem — his record is long and our views of him are cemented.
They don’t have to be. If he wants to win the Democratic Party’s nomination, Biden needs to be like Buttigieg — everywhere. Not just the predictable platforms like “The View,” where he announced his candidacy, or “Good Morning America,” where he responded to some of his critics in a taped piece.
Instead of the pre-packaged version of himself he wants us to see in slick, produced videos, surrounded by friendly interviewers with big reach, he should go to the podcasts, digital series and off-beat outlets. He should introduce himself to millennials and reintroduce himself to Gen Xers and even boomers. And yes, he should go on Fox News. Nowhere should be too obscure or “not worth the effort.”
Anything less and Biden will look entitled, out of touch and, frankly, too tired for the job.
At 76 and with nearly half a century in politics, he’ll never be the new kid on the block. But the trick for Joe Biden now is to pretend he is. And that means giving us a Biden we’ve never seen before.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.