Democrats need to recruit Obama to bench Biden, find another candidate: Goodwin

It is a given in politics that an incumbent has the advantage until things go wrong, at which point the challenger gets an edge. Then why, amidst panic, death and economic shutdown, is Joe Biden looking like the sick man of 2020?

Biden’s predicament is odd considering a key pillar of Donald Trump’s presidency — record low unemployment — is being vaporized. Thursday’s 3.3 million new unemployment claims wiped out nearly half the jobs created in the last three years, and the worst is yet to come.

Millions upon millions of Americans are fearful about their health and that of their loved ones, and the job losses and stock-market plunges are robbing family nest eggs. In addition, much of the media is slanting their coverage to damage Trump, all of which should be giving Biden a huge boost.

Indeed, my initial assumption was that the former veep caught a lucky break in the timing of the corona­virus outbreak. His winning streak in the last primaries gave him a solid lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders just before the shutdown froze the race and spared Biden added focus on his glaring weaknesses.

At the same time, Trump would be on the hot seat and inevitable missteps would magnify the sense of an out-of-control crisis, damaging if not destroying his re-election chances.

So how did the script get flipped, with Trump rising and Biden shrinking? And what can Dems do about it?

The first answer is fairly obvious: Trump has outperformed expectations as Biden first disappeared, then reappeared in several dreadful performances.

Despite initial reluctance, the president embraced the pandemic as a national threat and is ordering a massive mobilization. He calls himself a “wartime president” and is leading from the front, to a fault on occasion.

His daily briefings demonstrate the hands-on approach Americans expect from a president during an emergency. He’s on the case, and that’s half the battle when stricken citizens need reassurance that somebody is looking out for them.

Trump made a good choice in tapping Vice President Mike Pence to lead the task force, and the core team is credible and likeable, especially Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. By setting a target date of Easter, April 12, for a partial easing of federal restrictions, the president injected the first ray of optimism in the dreary projections.

Naturally, many on the left refuse to share that optimism, preferring a sky-is-falling pessimism and demanding a national lockdown. Nor are they welcoming signs of bipartisanship, choosing to magnify even slight differences as absolute proof that America remains polarized.

As for the media, their hostility toward Trump for four years has led them to cheerlead for a Biden ­victory.

In truth, with the virus continuing to spread and deaths rising, all Democrats might benefit from the outbreak. But for now, that looks less likely because Trump is turning the tables.

Polls show the president’s job-approval rising, and his handling of the crisis is getting strong majority support, including 60 percent in a Gallup survey. And that was before he helped push the $2.2 trillion relief bill over the goal line.

Meanwhile, Biden is a shrunken version of the guy who got hot at the right time. After going silent for nearly a week, he emerged in video clips and interviews from the basement of his Delaware home, where he is quarantining himself.

Looking isolated and lapsing into occasional gibberish, he seemed ­every bit the mentally challenged 77-year-old he was on the worst days of the campaign. Although he did better on a CNN virtual town hall Friday, his tics, such as having a three-point answer to every question, do not inspire confidence that he is capable of being president for four years.

So what can Dems do?

Find another nominee. But first, they must bench Biden, or persuade him to bench himself.

It’s a job for Barack Obama.

The former president remains the most trusted member of his party and is uniquely situated to deliver the bad news to his vice president. In fact, it won’t be a total surprise given that Obama never endorsed Biden, despite making it clear he did not want Sanders, the only other choice, to be the nominee.

Obama could pitch withdrawal as a final public service to country and party. For all we know, members of Biden’s family share the idea and would welcome Obama’s intervention.

The timing is tricky because the remaining primary schedule is in flux, leaving Biden about 800 delegates short of the required majority of 1,991. It is even possible the July convention will be postponed or canceled, creating huge complications around the nomination.

And moving Biden aside makes sense only if there are better alternatives. By my count, there are three.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is emerging as a favorite of some Dems because of his take-charge approach to the virus. His aggressive style would be a worthy counter to Trump’s and, as a prodigious fundraiser with a legacy name, he would be better than Biden at uniting the party. At 62, he isn’t burdened by age and health issues.

On the downside, the New York model of sky-high taxes and insanely expensive public services would be a hard sell in swing states, as would Cuomo’s foolish ban on fracking and fuel pipelines.

Nancy Pelosi also deserves consideration. The House speaker enjoys huge name recognition, is adept at twisting rich arms and has the requisite personal hatred of Trump. However, she turned 80 last week and her name on the ballot would unite ­Republicans as well as Dems.

And there is always Hillary Clinton. Insiders say she hasn’t given up despite being a two-time loser, and a rematch of 2016 would galvanize the nation. Her Trump grudge would be the only rationale she would need and might give Dems the turnout they would need.

But first things first. Paging Dr. ­Obama . . .

About buddy buddy Blasio 

Stop the presses: Here is what President Trump said Friday about Mayor de Blasio:

“I’ve really gotten to like him. I get along with him very well. Now, he wants us to do certain things, and we’ve produced.”

Given that they were nasty combatants, there are two possible explanations for the change.

One, Trump means it. He loves his hometown and sees the mayor as a good partner in trying to save lives.

Two, Trump is embracing de Blasio because Gov. Cuomo shuns the mayor. Cuomo and Trump swapped praise for a few days, but now are swapping barbs. So the enemy of Trump’s enemy is his new best friend.

Salute to NY’s heroes 

The old maxim that “if it bleeds, it leads” explains why bad news dominates the media, yet the need for good news has rarely been greater.

Which is why I recommend the “Hero of the Day” feature in The Post. It sings the praises of ordinary New Yorkers helping others however they can.

It’s a guaranteed mood lifter. And inspiring.

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