On the cover of New York Magazine’s October 28–November 10, 2019, issue, Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi goes behind the scenes of 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s campaign. Gaffe-prone and erratic on the debate stage and out of touch with the Democratic Party’s energized millennial wing, Biden, who is 76, is probably the least formidable front-runner ever. And yet, according to polls, he is still the front-runner … but for how much longer? Nuzzi follows Biden on the campaign trail and inside the war room, as Uncle Joe stumbles toward the nomination.
Reporting this story over the last six months, Nuzzi attended countless Biden events in a half-dozen states. Biden declined to be interviewed for the piece, which, according to Nuzzi, says something about the state of his campaign: “Biden has given very few formal interviews since getting in the race, and I think it’s that the campaign believes that the less he speaks without a script, the smaller the risk of him fucking up. They’re afraid of their own candidate and they don’t trust him.” In reporting on Biden, Nuzzi says she’s consistently surprised by what emerges from his events as news. Counting travel time, time spent waiting for him to come out, and time spent listening to the speakers before him, reporters can easily spend half the day waiting for Biden to speak, “and then during the Q&A, or talking to reporters, he says something as an aside, or says something by mistake and then tries to correct it, and that moment — those ten seconds — will be the big news about Biden that day,” says Nuzzi.
The piece also touches on Biden’s relationship with Barack Obama, and the fact that Obama has not endorsed his former colleague. “I don’t mean to be rude, but when he talks about ‘my friend Barack,’ ‘Barack and me’ ten times in one speech it’s sort of like a kid saying they have a girlfriend, she just goes to another school,” says Nuzzi. “Like, there’s a sort of pathetic quality to it. I think they will blame Obama’s refusal to endorse if Biden does not secure the nomination.”