Keller @ Large: Lack of presidential exposure is a plus for Biden

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Keller @ Large: Lack of presidential exposure is a plus for Biden

BOSTON — As President Biden struggles to improve dismal job approval ratings that rarely break out of the low 40s, there is one bright spot in an otherwise dismal poll:

Asked in a new CBS News/YouGov poll whether they liked Biden personally, 59 percent of voters under 30 said yes, a much higher number than approved of his job performance. Same deal with Hispanic voters. And overall, personal likability is one of the few areas where Biden comes up short.

What’s happening?

Remember the old saying: absence makes the heart grow fonder.

“The less people see Biden, the more they seem to like him,” said Boston University associate professor emeritus Tobe Berkowitz, an expert in political communication. And it really seems that the White House’s strategy when it comes to exposing the president to media issues is — less is more.

In his first two years as president, Barack Obama gave 275 interviews to the media. Donald Trump gave 202. But Biden? Just 54 in last year’s midterms, many of them with non-hard news editions.

And the average annual number of full-scale press conferences held by any president since 1989 is at least double that of Biden’s so far.

Is this a smart move?

“From the White House’s point of view, absolutely,” Berkowitz says. “With Biden, they’re trying to get a picture, but to keep him under control once he gets out there, that’s the problem, so the solution is, don’t let him get out there.”

Biden’s gaffes are the stuff of political legend, but has public speaking ever worked to his advantage?

Between his own record and his critics’ insistence that he barely manages to function, the bar is often so low for Biden that he can easily clear it. I can think of a few marathon press conferences where he performed well, and the spontaneous give-and-take with Republicans during the State of the Union worked well for him as well.

But expect the White House to continue to pick its seats carefully. You know the old saying – always leave them wanting more.

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