November 2, 2020
Joseph R. Biden Jr. began his 2020 presidential campaign with one loss and one loss. But after an extraordinary comeback, he won the award he had missed in two previous presidential campaigns: the Democratic nomination.
In the keystone of a career that spanned two terms as vice president and 36 years in the Senate, Mr Biden now faces President Trump in a competition dominated by a global pandemic and a summer of unrest over the police murder of black Americans.
Mr. Biden's year started rocky. In February, Iowans gave him his first setback with a fourth place in the state conventions, and New Hampshire Elementary School got worse a week later. He finished fifth – and fled the state before the results came in.
The former vice president and his team hoped his fortune would improve as different states held their competitions. Next came Nevada, and Mr. Biden finished second to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Then came South Carolina. It was the first early contest in which large numbers of black voters registered their preferences, and Mr Biden enjoyed goodwill among those voters thanks to his loyal service alongside President Barack Obama. He also won the coveted recognition of the state's most influential Democrat, Representative James E. Clyburn.
When the results came in, he'd won – with more than twice the votes of his closest rival, Mr. Sanders.
In the next 48 hours, Mr Biden got a big boost from his former competitors. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana both supported him, as did former representative Beto O'Rourke of Texas.
On Super Tuesday, Mr Biden won 10 out of 14 states, including some where he was never active. His former rivals continued to band around him over the next week. Senators Kamala Harris from California and Cory Booker from New Jersey endorsed Mr. Biden in Michigan elementary school a week later.
On March 10th, Mr. Biden traveled to Ohio, whose elementary school was scheduled for a week later. He was supposed to be holding a rally in Cleveland, but the coronavirus pandemic was about to take hold of the nation and end the campaign. Mr Biden's rally has been canceled.
Soon there would be no more rallies. The pandemic effectively ended the race between Mr. Biden and his remaining rival, Mr. Sanders, who was eliminated in April.
Mr. Biden reappeared on Memorial Day, placed a wreath on a veterans memorial in Wilmington, Delaware, and wore a mask, unlike Mr. Trump's appearance. Over the next week he met with community leaders at a black church in Wilmington after George Floyd died in police custody.
Mr. Biden returned to the distance – from a distance.
His campaign organized occasional face-to-face events in Delaware and neighboring Pennsylvania designed with security in mind. Large white circles on site created social distancing among the reporters present.
Mr. Biden once described himself as a “bridge” to a new generation of executives and promised to choose a woman as his runner-up. After months of tension, he picked Ms. Harris, a former rival, to join the Democratic ticket.
Ms. Harris had gutted Mr. Biden once during a period of debate, but her rollout went smoothly. She talked about working with Mr. Biden's late son, Beau Biden, when they were attorneys-general, and the new ticket avoided being stumbled upon by her past differences.
The pandemic derailed plans for the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, forcing most of the proceedings online.
Mr Biden and Ms. Harris accepted their nominations in front of socially distant reporters at a events center in Wilmington – far from the crowded arena they should have been cheering for. On the last night of the convention, supporters gathered in their cars like a drive-in theater, and the new Democratic ticket accompanied them to a fireworks display.
Amid concern by some Democrats over his visibility, Mr Biden began to ramp up his Labor Day campaigns and venture into battlefield states outside the mid-Atlantic region. Once again, his campaign hosted carefully arranged social distancing and masked events, a stark contrast to Mr. Trump's crowded rallies.
Mr. Biden was just returning from a campaign trip to Minnesota when the news broke that Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. Trump and Senate Republicans were quick to appoint Judge Amy Coney Barrett in their place.
Trying to frame the legal battle as a battle for the future of healthcare in America, Mr Biden warned of Mr Trump's desire for the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
The first debate was the subject of great anticipation and provided Mr Trump with an opportunity to change a race that was going on in Mr Biden's favor. It also put Mr. Biden in the spotlight after Mr. Trump portrayed him as a senile old man for months.
However, the meeting was remembered not because of Mr. Biden's performance, but because of Mr. Trump's constant interruptions. The voters were left with a headache-inducing spectacle full of attacks and light on substance.
Another seismic development came later that week: Mr Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Within two weeks, he had recovered and returned to the campaign with major rallies in violation of public health guidelines.
Mr. Biden stuck to his approach. He made more visits to battlefield states but failed to hold crowded events.
In the past few weeks, Mr. Biden has pioneered a pandemic-compatible replacement for traditional events: rallies for car campaigns.
His speeches quickly took on a new soundtrack, with lines of applause interrupted by the beeping of car horns.
On the last weekend before election day, Mr. Biden battled former President Barack Obama in Michigan, a state whose ticket has been won twice. With coronavirus cases in many places, they condemned Mr Trump for dealing with the pandemic.
Mr Biden ended the campaign as it had started, presenting himself as a unified figure who would work to repair the damage caused by Mr Trump's presidency.