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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.
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Go deeper

Biden embarks on a consequential presidency

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump tried everything to delegitimize the rival who vanquished him. In reality, he's set Joe Biden on course to be a far more consequential U.S. president than he might otherwise have become.

The big picture: President Biden now confronts not just a pandemic, but massive political divisions and an assault on truth — and the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago that threatened democracy itself.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 22, 2021 - World

What has and hasn't changed as Biden takes over U.S. foreign policy

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate pact and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.