This is what passes for excitement with the Joe Biden 2020 campaign: For a few days, the most obsessive political watchers got to speculate that his running mate might not be the obvious choice that everybody assumed it would be.

That was fun for a while, imagining that he might choose former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, or even Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Of course, in the end he named U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, as everybody expected.

It is the safe, boring, obvious choice, for a candidate and campaign that are making a virtue of those traits.

Since wrapping up the nomination earlier this year, Biden has kept a remarkably low profile. Part of that has been forced upon him by COVID-19; some of it stems from the standard emphasis on fundraising during these months.

But it’s also, clearly, a strategic choice — a thematic expression of what he offers in contrast to Donald Trump. Which boils down to, in the words of Mary J. Blige, “No More Drama.”

Biden’s strongest argument, at least to those Americans not locked into partisan certitude, is that he can provide a respite from the constant chaos churned up by the current narcissist-in-chief. He will pack few surprises and spark few controversies; he will be too busy quietly getting business done to incite Twitter flame wars and insert himself into every passing cultural moment.

That, at least, is the message of the campaign so far: You barely know it’s there.

It’s not entirely true to Biden’s nature, of course. One of the knocks against Biden’s 2020 candidacy (by this columnist, among others) was that his off-the-cuff, no-filter style would make things entertaining for reporters but disastrous for his campaign.

A fortunate side effect of this anti-attention campaign, from that perspective, is that it has limited Biden’s exposure for the gaffes and verbal cringe-inducers he is long known for.

He has continued to find opportunities nevertheless, including more than one insensitive remark about Black voters.

But even those have given little fodder to a Trump campaign desperate to shine negative attention on the opponent. Nor has Biden given them any particularly attention-grabbing policy announcements with which to make hay.

Low-key Convention?
Challengers to sitting presidents tend to use the announcement of a running mate, followed by the nominating convention, as an attention-seeking kickoff to the fall campaign.

Think of Bill Clinton, challenging dour, aging George H.W. Bush in 1992. He chose youthful Al Gore as his running mate, played Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” after his “believe in a place called Hope” convention speech and set out with Gore on a bus tour clad in blue jeans.

Or John Kerry, “reporting for duty” at his 2004 convention, to build a narrative against the playing-at-war administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

If Biden’s winning contrast with the incumbent is that you barely notice him, perhaps even these events need to be low-key.

Harris has been safely vetted, in public office and in the spotlight of the national campaign trail. She is generally well-liked and admired. She causes no significant ruptures within the Democratic Party coalition, while rankling no feathers among moderates and Independents.

The major whispered knock against Harris among insider gossips has been that she relies on an inner political circle from California — including her sister Maya Harris, who served as her presidential campaign chair — that has proven unfit for the big political stage. As expected, the Biden campaign preceded this week’s announcement by naming the top staffers for the vice-presidential candidate, showing that Biden’s people — not Harris’ — will be running that operation.

Harris can be expected to make no waves and go largely forgotten while she fundraises and gets out the vote.

As for the convention — now planned as an entirely virtual event, with no gathering audience in the host city of Milwaukee — that promises to be mostly forgettable as well.

The campaign has been releasing details of speakers, themes, and formats, and suffice to say that no major new ground looks to be broken. Speeches will be given by exactly who you’d expect. The nightly themes sound like they were lifted randomly from an elementary school chalkboard: “We the People,” “Leadership Matters,” “A More Perfect Union,” and “America’s Promise.”

The four network-carried hours, one each night next Monday through Thursday, will be anchored by the 2008-throwback team of Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

If these sound like criticisms, they are not. I am certainly eager for a political convention that fails to elevate my blood pressure, and I imagine most of the country is, too. They used to call the former president “No drama Obama.” That kind of nostalgia sounds pretty good right now.