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by LLEWELLYN KING TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE | September 19, 2020 at 12:16 p.m.

Four years ago, Democrats slouched to the polls and voted, holding their noses figuratively. Somehow the party had come up with a presidential candidate whom no one liked very much: Hillary Clinton.

Pitted against a risible president, Donald Trump, who is a climate change-doubting, class-dividing, race-baiting, immigrant-bashing, law-bending, treaty-tearing, dictator-loving, truth-challenged, dissembling incompetent, this time it should be an easy White House win for the Democrats.

This time, there should be white-hot passion for Democratic challenger Joe Biden, the candidate who would restore our moral base, our international standing, salve our wounds, and give us a sense that the nation is moving forward to a sunlit future. But there is no surge of feeling, zero passion.

Instead, the closest thing to enthusiasm I find among voters is resigned, faint praise. "He's a decent man," I've been told over and again. I'll have a struggle in not offering the next Democrat who tells me in a woeful voice that Biden's "a decent man" a physical rebuke.

Poor old Joe Biden--yes, he is old for the job at 77--is defined mostly by having been there, like the TV-watching gardener played by Peter Sellers in the movie "Being There." He was in the Senate for a long time, he was vice president to Barack Obama for two terms. He clears the being-there bar, but it is a low bar--very low.

No one is passionately against Biden. Trump's attempts to paint him as a socialist ogre about to take us to Stalinism have fallen flat. Flat because they are unbelievable, and they are unbelievable because that isn't Biden.

Biden has always been the quintessential man of the center of the situation.

If, as still expected but not guaranteed, Biden makes it across the threshold in this election, his greatest strength will be his address book. His best strategy will be to use surrogates to fight his political wars. That means a strong Cabinet and a great White House staff.

I've been watching Biden for years, nodding hello to him, and sometimes talking with him, the way it goes for reporters and politicians in Washington. I get the distinct feeling Biden isn't the man he was eight years ago, when he would've been a more appealing candidate within his limitations. He seems diminished, his fire reduced to an ember.

As it is, Democrats and renegade Republicans will slouch to the polls to vote against Trump. Few in their hearts will be voting for Biden. There is a passion deficit.


Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS.


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