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Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

Eight months ago, Joe Biden was in danger of losing the Democratic nomination. Now he's a prohibitive favorite for president — who got there with lots of luck and shockingly little scrutiny.

Why it matters: The media's obsession with Trump — and Trump's compulsion to dominate the news — allowed Biden to purposely and persistently minimize public appearances and tough questions.

Since Aug. 31, Biden has answered less than half as many questions from the press as Trump — 365 compared with 753 — according to a tally by the Trump campaign, which the Biden campaign didn't dispute.

  • In that time, Biden has done approximately 35 local TV interviews, three national interviews and two town halls.
  • Biden went almost three months without taking questions from beat reporters.
  • Biden aides say one reason there's less scrutiny of Biden in the general election is that he already was examined thoroughly in the primary election and over decades in public life.
  • Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesperson, said: "Who's ‘scrutinizing’ Trump more, Maria Bartiromo or Sean Hannity?"

Biden has yet to be pinned down on an array of legitimate questions, including:

  • His blunt view of adding new justices to the Supreme Court, which will be a priority for progressives if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. Biden, who had criticized the idea in the past, finally said he's "not a fan of court packing."
  • Biden also has mostly gotten off easy on Medicare for All, police funding, Pentagon spending, fracking, reparations for African Americans, the Green New Deal and his support for the 1994 crime bill.
  • Per Trump campaign spokesperson Andrew Clark: "Biden has been the least-scrutinized presidential candidate in modern history at great disservice to the voters, but the press still has time to rectify that.”

Look how Biden got here:

  • Biden's team was close to shuttering his foundering campaign for the Democratic nomination at the end of February. Then perhaps the last kingmaker in American politics — James Clyburn — blessed his candidacy and delivered him South Carolina.
  • Back in May, David Plouffe and David Axelrod urged Biden not to become passive. But the campaign stuck to a strategy of protecting the candidate's and voters' health.
  • Then the coronavirus hit. Biden looked wise, rather than weak, for staying off the trail and campaigning via video calls.
  • Trump continued to light himself on fire, bombed the first debate, then got the coronavirus. He balked at a virtual debate, giving Biden another offramp.
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

Oct 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden's China plan: Bring allies

Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joe Biden is planning to confront China across the globe, embracing some of President Trump's goals but rejecting his means.

The big picture: By starting a trade war with China, Trump has fundamentally altered the U.S.- China relationship — and forced both Republicans and Democrats to accept a more confrontational approach towards Beijing.

Updated Aug 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Axios-NewsWhip 2020 attention tracker library

Biden's closing ad campaign

Joe Biden attends a virtual town hall event with Oprah Winfrey at The Queen theater in Delaware. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joe Biden's team is spending tens of millions of dollars on a national digital ad campaign in the final days before Election Day — but highlighting a plethora of voters from Pennsylvania in particular, underscoring how critically important the state is.

Why it matters: Biden's team is betting that COVID-19 is on the ballot, and amplifying the stories of those affected by the pandemic with an emphasis on persuading voters in key battlegrounds to support the former VP.