On a recent episode of our podcast we discussed the political thriller The President Is Missing, written by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, in which the president does indeed go missing for 36 hours. By contrast, President Donald Trump is never out of the spotlight – be that in person or via Twitter. For many people in America, Trump is considered not only dangerous and embarrassing, but also exhausting.

By comparison, Joe Biden is much lower energy and this contrast may prove advantageous in November’s election. While Trump uses this seeming lack of exertion against Biden – calling him “Sleepy Joe” – this may get to the heart of a key tactic used by Biden’s campaign team. Capitalising on the discrepancy of energies with which the two presidential candidates present themselves might work in Biden’s favour, offering an antithesis to the omnipresent shadow of the president– though this tactic might be born out of necessity rather than choice.

Joe Biden turns 78 later this year and would become the oldest president (by far) at the time of their inauguration, ironically replacing Trump. It would be incorrect to say out rightly that Joe Biden is unfit for office due to his age and mental capabilities, especially at a time when the current president is bragging about passing a cognitive test. However, it’s not wrong to question Biden when his campaign up until now has been a mix of gaffes and disappearing from the limelight, especially since if he becomes president he will take over a country still going through a pandemic, a nosediving economy, and facing great uncertainty in its relationships with China and Russia. We know that being president takes its toll and that applies even more so for someone pushing 80.

The main strategy from the Biden campaign team has so far been to shelter their candidate as much as possible and instead let Trump self-destruct when faced with tasks he is simply unfit and unqualified to take on. This has resulted in speculation on Biden’s health and his ability to speak live in front of audiences. However, the plan does appear to be working. As things stand now, Biden is up in the polls and is projected to win comfortably. So while Trump takes to Twitter yet again to lie and falsely claim that Obama spied on his campaign, Biden’s account simply states the contrast between the two candidates.

It was announced recently that Joe Biden will not hold campaign rallies prior to the election, which, while based on medical advice, is something of a blessing for Biden. His team can continue to place him in one-on-one campaign videos where the narrative is tightly controlled, rather than have him stand in front of thousands of people under the hot sun in Florida and Texas.

While Biden’s campaign team has been careful in keeping the former vice president away from the glaring media spotlight, their luck will run out once we reach televised debates. Normally it is the challenger who relishes the opportunity of these debates, allowing them air-time to speak their message, hit the incumbent hard on their record, and above all, get their name out there. Instead, this may be the rare election where the challenger has more to lose.

Trump has had a disastrous year – from his mishandling of the police protesters to his many failures in dealing with the COVID crisis – and this has largely been reflected in the polls. Should the televised debates go ahead, they may be the last chance Trump has to show that Biden is unfit for office and win back those in the political centre whom he has lost. Trump will go hard in any and all debates and it may even turn ugly as was seen numerous times in 2016. Biden dominated Paul Ryan in the 2012 vice presidential debates, but Biden is older now and Trump is no Paul Ryan. Biden will have to keep his cool and withstand the flailing attacks of a desperate president running out of options. And in those moments, there will be no one there to help the former vice president: Biden will be under the bright lights, fully visible for the whole world to see. In those moments, we’ll see if Biden is still capable of holding his own.

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