In Joe Biden’s first visit to South Carolina as a presidential candidate, the former vice president kept it light: He spoke at a public rally and a private fundraiser on a Saturday, attended a church service on a Sunday, and then was gone.
There was no Elizabeth Warren-style town hall with questions from the audience, no swing through multiple media markets like Cory Booker or Kamala Harris, no frenzied schedule of events like Beto O’Rourke.
There was no need. According to the most recent poll in the state, Biden already has a commanding lead there.
As his opponents in a sprawling primary field scramble to build their early-state profiles, the Biden campaign is taking a different, more deliberate approach. The number of events per day are limited. The size of the venues are modest. Careful attention has been paid to his exposure to the press, with a slow ramp up of his availability to the media over time.
Biden has led in every national poll taken since he announced his candidacy. He’s also established wide early-state leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, while lapping up endorsements. And he’s done it with a measured, Rose Garden-style strategy that has played to his strengths while concealing his potential flaws.
“For Biden, direction is more important than speed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And managing expectations will be the key,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 and 2008 campaigns in South Carolina. “There are some in the party who think he’s too old, or that he has too many miles on his political engine, or that it’s a woman’s time. But in his case, a slow and steady pace will win the race.”