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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Standing, rather than running, looks like the only way for Trump or Biden to win

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Credit: Composite: AP / Gerry Broome and Carolyn Kaster

At this point, we might as well dust off a phrase rarely used in the U.S.: "standing for election." "Running for election" seems off the mark when describing the contest between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.

A new CNN poll reports that 9 of 10 likely voters have made up their minds. Only 8% said they might change their decision, and 1% said they have not chosen between the two.

Well before the end of a once-crowded series of Democratic primaries, Biden became the last one standing. Other major candidates endorsed him. In a sense, there was no more figurative running to be done because national partisan attitudes toward incumbent Trump were so entrenched.

If you don't think this election will be some variation of a straight-up party-line vote, just consider Trump's tweet on Tuesday about a COVID-19 stimulus bill: "I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business."

No deal was likely before Nov. 3 anyway, especially because the president doesn't really do deals. This is all about his berating Democrats. He never links "hardworking Americans" and "small business" with residents of Deep Blue states.

The coronavirus feeds this year's standing-not-running motif. Trump is dramatically sidelined and physically weakened by his COVID-19 infection in the last month of the contest. Biden has been observing precautions and wearing masks — not only to protect himself but to make a point.

The pandemic prompted both red and blue states to expand the use of absentee ballots. People already are voting in person as well. Any form of early voting limits what a candidate can yield from running to the end. Still, events and appearances can still create a buzz that translates into election turnout and commitment.

Trump, whose conduct has alienated many voters, seems strategically focused on destroying Biden's reputation and tarring his Democratic Party as being radical. That's done through TV ads and internet propaganda pushed by professional consultants and fundraisers.

Swing states are key to the Electoral College. But the candidates' positions and promises are already evident. The vice-presidential debate Wednesday night will be about incumbent Mike Pence standing with Trump, and Sen. Kamala Harris standing with Biden.

Neither Trump nor Biden can do much by now to run from their records. Standing fast and surviving the season, rather than scrambling around, seems like it will have to do.

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