A senior adviser to Democrat Joe Biden in his campaign for president believed “Covid is the best thing that ever happened to him”, a new book reports.
It was, the authors add, a necessarily private comment that “campaign officials believed but would never say in public” as the US reeled from the impact of the pandemic amid hospitals stretched to breaking and with deaths mounting and the economy falling off a cliff.
The remark, made to “an associate” by Anita Dunn, a Washington powerbroker who the Atlantic called “The Mastermind Behind Biden’s No-Drama Approach to Trump”, is reported in Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
The first major book on the 2020 election, a campaign indelibly marked by the coronavirus, will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.
This week, President Biden commemorated the 500,000th US Covid death with solemn ceremony and a request that Americans “remember those we lost and those we left behind”.
Allen and Parnes, of NBC News and The Hill, also collaborated on Shattered, a similarly speedy history of Hillary Clinton’s White House run in 2016. In their new book they record Biden’s view of his predecessor in her defeat by Trump – he thought her a “terrible candidate” – and the views of Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice-president from 2009 to 2017, as the 2020 campaign unfolded.
Obama first “seemed to be enamored with a former Texas congressman, Beto O’Rourke”, Allen and Parnes write, then later told Biden’s aides he feared his friend, aged 77 when the primary began, would only succeed in embarrassing himself and tarnishing a distinguished Washington career.
But Dunn’s reported comment points to what became the dominant theme of the election. As the pandemic capsized Trump along with the economy Biden, through a much more cautious approach to campaigning and basic public health concerns, appealed to voters as the right man to manage a recovery.
Trump sought to hammer Biden for “hiding in his basement” – a reference to Biden’s decision to rarely leave home in Wilmington, Delaware, instead campaigning virtually while the president held rallies and ignored public health guidelines. But such attacks did not hit home.
Though “both Trump and Biden were comfortable with the stylistic and substantive contrasts of their … responses to the coronavirus”, Allen and Parnes write, “Trump led loudly, Biden calmly said Trump misled”.
Like many members of his family and inner circle, Trump contracted the virus. He was reportedly more seriously ill than was publicly admitted. Biden stayed healthy and won the electoral college 306-232 and the popular vote by more than 7m.
Dunn, 63, is a veteran of six Democratic campaigns and three winning ones, having worked for Obama in 2008 and 2012. She has not taken a role in the Biden administration and according to her own consulting firm, SKDK, is “currently on leave … expected to return later this year”.
According to the profile published by the Atlantic in the immediate aftermath of Biden’s win in November, Dunn “came of age in the time when aides were neither seen…