Biden and Harris’s Incident-Free, Audience-Free Debut

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But a standard, rollicking running mate rollout this was not.

There was no mass crowd to salute inside, no “thank you, Florida!” — or Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or whichever swing state campaign advisers would have preferred on Day 1.

There was no overstuffed photo line where Mr. Biden could point his finger-guns and pose, no cluster of locals to high-five the new ticket.

“I wish we were able to talk to the folks outside,” Mr. Biden said at the start of his address, alluding to supporters who had come to greet the two outside the gymnasium. “But we’re keeping our social distancing and playing by the rules.”

Still, for all the oddities endemic to a mid-virus presidential campaign, Wednesday’s event amounted to a most peculiar outcome in this political age: a scene that seemed entirely plausible, even predictable, a year ago — the conventional wisdom validated, if only this once.

Since the Democratic primary season began in earnest in early 2019, many voters had anointed themselves as real-time pundits, guessing at which combination of candidates stood the best chance against Mr. Trump. Even after a searing debate exchange over busing, musings about a would-be Biden-Harris unity ticket ricocheted through union halls and school auditoriums across Iowa and New Hampshire. (In the end, Ms. Harris’s campaign collapsed before these states even weighed in officially.)

For a self-described “gut politician” like Mr. Biden — known to shake hands and shoulders and the sides of faces, if an attendee appears amenable — the evaporation of the traditional campaign trail has been jarring. Ms. Harris, who has likewise shown a capacity for in-the-room connection, will probably have few opportunities to lean on this skill set this year.

But on balance, Democrats might count themselves grateful for these political conditions. Both candidates have been known to stumble in unrehearsed settings, with Ms. Harris in particular often demonstrating a wide gap between scripted performances and on-the-fly questioning.

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