Democrats can’t be sure Trump will self-defeat and give Biden the win by default. The former vice president must phase his way back into the race.

The 2020 presidential campaign has come to this: The presumptive Democratic nominee remains holed up in his Delaware basement, while the incumbent fumbles and bumbles at his coronavirus bully pulpit. 

Maybe Donald Trump will self-defeat, giving Joe Biden the presidency by default. But Democrats can’t count on that, which is why the former vice president must phase his way back into the race. It’s time to reopen the Biden campaign. 

The foundation was laid with rapid-fire endorsements from Biden’s former boss Barack Obama, his recent rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and — on Tuesday in a live-streamed town hall — from Hillary Clinton. True, Obama’s ultra-articulate webcast made some of us long for real presidential charisma. And, yes, split-screen images of Biden and Sanders looked at times like a casting call for Grumpy Old Men III. And, granted, Warren was late and not persuasive enough for some progressives. And, alas, the Clinton event featured so much nostalgia about lunches during the Obama years that only three viewers got to ask questions.  

But the endorsements reminded us that while we might be in the greatest health emergency of our lives, we’re also facing the most important election in decades. 

Pick a VP to launch next phase

Biden’s Phase 1 should be to announce a running mate. There is nothing to be gained by waiting in the traditional way for the party’s convention — which, for all we know, might be truncated or switched to a video-only format. Biden has already pledged to select a woman, and he should name her now. Best of the best: Sen. Amy Klobuchar or Warren. 

There are others on the short list, such as California Sen. Kamala Harris, Florida Rep. Val Demings and former Georgia legislative leader Stacey Abrams, but this isn’t their time. To be blunt: Electing the first woman vice president — who, in light of Biden’s age might then become the first woman president — is plenty. But giving fringe voters an excuse to reject a candidate because she is both female and African American is, sadly, too risky. Besides, Abrams and Demings don’t have the executive experience that Biden requires in a right-hand; Harris comes closer but has too much baggage from her time as California’s attorney general. 

Whoever Biden wants, he needs to name her right away. Even before COVID-19 struck, Biden was running a low energy campaign with fewer appearances per day than his rivals. Since the shutdown, his video feeds from home have at times been rambling and unfocused. However, it’s worth noting that he has done better with wife Jill at his side, and he seemed energized when Sanders joined him on split-screen. The VP candidate will provide a boost on the screen and later on the stump.   

Next, social media and online presence must be dramatically improved. Biden has about 7 million Twitter and Facebook followers, compared with 106 million for Trump. Axios reports Trump received seven times more “social media interactions” than Biden in the month that ended April 15. On YouTube, Trump has 380,000 subscribers while Biden has about 46,000.

Believe your own eyes: Joe Biden’s Trump card is that death, disease and economic pain are real. They can’t be spun.

The goal isn’t to out-tweet Trump, it’s to expand platforms that proved so valuable to the Obama and Sanders campaigns. Success on social media is crucial for fundraising. Also, as Sanders demonstrated, it provides a path to the young voters integral to Democratic strategy. 

The campaign must also sharpen its messaging. This is delicate, because candidates usually move toward the center for the general election, yet Biden needs to slide left to energize Sanders supporters. More immediately, however, Biden needs to comfort and meaningfully communicate during the pandemic. His op-ed in the New York Times, “My Plan to Safely Reopen America,” was disappointing because it wasn’t much of a plan at all, relying on empty truths such as, “Safe and effective treatment can help manage the risk of the coronavirus.” 

Reassure people coping with crisis 

Rather than issuing “plans” about dealing with the crisis, Biden should focus on what he does best: Reassuring Americans, based on his personal experience, that we’ll get through this. I’d love to see, or hear via podcast, the former vice president engaging in heart-to-hearts with nurses, bus drivers, those who have lost loved ones, and others who are stressed. His digital feeds have included a few such people — unemployed workers, for example — but here’s the deal: They usually consist of questions for him rather than from him. This is an opportunity for “Doctor Joe” to highlight the compassion gap that separates him from Trump. 

Coronavirus pandemic: Trump can’t even play a president on TV. America, we’re on our own.

Biden should publicly identify and mobilize a team of accomplished Americans who will both advise him and help him win. He recently said during a virtual fundraiser that he’s working on a post-election transition team, and he and Sanders have agreed to form six policy task forces. Such moves are fine, but they lack the urgency of the moment. Biden should gather superstars — people like Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, Stacey Abrams, Rahm Emanuel and Andrew Yang — for a campaign power team. 

Finally, Biden needs a theme, a slogan, far better than his current, “Our best days still lie ahead.” It’s more than semantics; it’s the difference between a campaign and a movement — the distinction that Trump made in 2016 with “Make America Great Again” (lifted, by the way, from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 slogan). 

Above all, reopen. Democrats can’t afford to wait for Trump to self-destruct.

Peter Funt is a writer and host of “Candid Camera.”

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