A Biden-Obama Reunion Video Pitches a Campaign as Comfort-Food TV

On the other hand, there’s the possibility of making Mr. Biden the second banana in his own campaign production. Mr. Obama, comfortable and relaxed, had many of the pithier lines, talking about racial discrimination by saying that in a job application, “If your name is John, you might get called back; if your name’s Jamaal, you might not.”

It was a delicate balance, summed up in the still photo chosen for the video’s closing image: the two men, embracing under a blue sky, Mr. Obama’s face turned away from the camera, Mr. Biden’s turned toward it.

There was some very broad-stroke policy in the video — Mr. Biden’s economic message to “Build back better,” his pledge to add a public option for health insurance. But the video’s argument was about tone and media presence as much as it was about substance.

Like any nominee who would have run against an incumbent president and lifelong camera chaser, Mr. Biden has to figure out how to counterprogram Mr. Trump and capture attention. (Which means it’s an open question how much reach this video will have beyond Mr. Biden’s committed supporters.)

Inevitably, Mr. Trump will be a major character in any campaign against him. Here, he was “that guy,” trying to sledgehammer down the “starter house” of Obamacare. And as a five-decades-long figure of politics, Mr. Biden does not have the option of seizing the headlines as the exciting new thing, the way Mr. Obama did.

Instead, the video suggested, Mr. Biden’s campaign will make familiarity an asset, packaging him as TV comfort food. Like a quarantine-binged season of “The Office,” it’s something you’ve seen before, but you know what you’re getting. Like an episode of “This Is Us,” the Biden campaign may be corny and normie, but it understands the deep, mass-appeal pull of empathy and shared grief.

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