Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has an opportunity and a challenge: He is the presumptive nominee for president taking on an incumbent weighed down by a public-health disaster and a resulting deep recession.
But first, he has to get past the birds.
The birds twittered up a storm during a May 8 address on the economic crisis, as he livestreamed from his Delaware home, where the Covid-19 pandemic has marooned him. They whistled through his remarks to a “virtual rally” aimed at voters in Florida. They honked, from a pond near his house, through a speech to the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Victory Fund.
Not since Tony Soprano and his ducks has a media figure’s circumstances been so enmeshed with the fowl in his backyard. Running a general election campaign that began almost immediately as shelter-in-place policies fell into place, Mr. Biden has suddenly found himself, late in life, trying to adapt from his beloved retail politics to unsatisfying e-tail politics.
Like the nation that he is running to lead, Mr. Biden is discovering the limits of teleconferencing: clunky pacing, glitchy audio and unwanted interruptions, from an iPhone ringtone drowning out part of his AAPI speech to what sounds like the horn of a passing train inadvertently illustrating a speech section referencing mass-transit workers.
Mr. Biden, speaking straight to camera, lacks the off-the-cuff energy he can get in front of a crowd. There are none of the trademark embellishments — “Folks!” “I’m serious!” It’s enough to make you miss the white-knuckle Biden speaking style that made every debate answer a perilous journey.