The pandemic is drowning out the election it may decide

This was excerpted from the July 27 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)By now, balloons should have tumbled from the rafters at the Democratic National Convention onto Joe Biden and his new vice presidential pick. And Donald Trump should be setting the swing states on fire with rowdy rallies designed to drive supporters to the polls. But the pandemic is drowning out the election it may decide.

Party conventions have moved online. The President just cancelled his planned nomination speech, which he had moved to Florida to ensure big crowds. At this point, the three presidential debates scheduled to begin in September may be as close to a "normal" election season as America gets this year.
A sense of disequilibrium is exacerbated by the fact that we rarely see Biden, who is limiting himself to virtual or socially distanced events. The former Veep is apparently hoping Trump dooms himself with his disastrous handling of the worst health crisis in 100 years. But at some point, Biden will be duty bound to make a more proactive case about how he would lead the way out of the current mess.
    The contest isn't completely invisible -- combined spending by the campaigns has already burned through a billion dollars, and that's not counting ads by rich political action committees. Trump's obsession with reelection can also be seen in everything he does, like sending federal agents to Democratic-run cities, and half-heartedly embracing masks after months of ignoring the coronavirus nightmare.
    The President has problems. It's not too late, but with such dismal polling, a Trump victory in November would shred conventional wisdom far more comprehensively than he did in 2016. Trailing in battleground states, he's under pressure in Republican bastions like Texas and Georgia. A scorched earth campaign, race-baiting and claims that Biden is senile are not working. His failings on the pandemic are overshadowing everything.
    New CNN polls reveal his plight: Trump is down in Florida, Michigan and Arizona. If Biden wins the first two of that critical trio, he'll almost certainly be President. And he still has multiple other routes to victory.

    A farewell to Hemingway look-alikes