Because of my suspicion that American voters have permanently given up on President Biden—no matter what he says or does, his approval ratings keep falling—I was getting ready to join other pundits urging him to drop his 2024 candidacy and allow someone younger to win the Democratic nomination.
I realize that was a fool’s errand. Biden seems determined to run, and Jill Biden shows no indication she’ll try to persuade him otherwise.
So now I’m offering advice on how Biden might prepare for what figures to be one of the most brutal campaigns in recent history. The election figures to be very close and if Biden pulls out an Electoral College victory, it will surely be contested by Donald Trump and the MAGA-minded Republican Party, perhaps violently.
So, I now think Biden and Democrats need to reverse their own electoral weaknesses—weak communications is definitely one—and exploit to the max weaknesses on Trump’s side. They need messaging advice from three of the most hard-hitting anti-Trump entities in America—the ad-producing Lincoln Project, The Bulwark website, and the eloquent strategist/commentator Steve Schmidt.
Democratic strategist James Carville (whose advice Biden’s team also should consult), said “Let me tell you, the Lincoln group and The Bulwark–these Never Trumpers–the Democrats could learn a lot from them. They’re mean. They fight hard. And we don’t fight like that.”
It’d help, too, if Democrats could contrive to persuade “grown-up” former Trump officials who’ve publicly broken with him to repeat their charges against him, collectively or individually, but persistently and publicly.
Prospects include retired Gens. Mark Milley, James Mattis, and John Kelly, former Defense Sec. Mark Esper, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Attorney Gen. Bill Barr, plus Cassidy Hutchinson and other former members of Trump’s White House staff who testified against him to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Obviously, Biden has to do better neutralizing his weak points. He can’t avoid the biggest one—his age—but he can point out that he has an effective and experienced team working for him. These team members can recount in detail Biden’s tireless hours spent juggling various foreign and domestic issues, including the Russia-Ukraine war, the Israeli-Hamas war, now-improving US-China relations, his largely successful legislative program and, at long last, his other big negative, the southern border crisis.
On that score, Biden is belatedly toughening up, promising to close the border to asylum-seekers when migrant flows drop from tens of thousands a day to 5,000. He’s doing that not only to counter his record-low poll numbers on that issue (32 percent positive, 68 negative), but to save a bipartisan Senate package combining border security with aid to Ukraine and Israel. That deal is in peril because Trump has come out against it, largely to avoid Biden’s getting credit for a legislative achievement, according to GOP senators.
If Biden risks losing support among liberals and Hispanics for his toughened stance, all he needs to do is to cite Trump’s proposed agenda—mass roundups, detention camps, and deportation of illegal immigrants theoretically in the millions. Trump has said, echoing a line Hitler used about Jews, that illegal immigrants are “poisoning the blood of America.”
Republicans, many of whom formerly favored the package to save Ukraine aid, now have fallen in line behind Trump—House GOP leaders were there already—even though it would hand Vladimir Putin a victory and might inspire other US adversaries to take new military risks.
The Biden campaign should charge Republicans with abandoning US allies. International affairs guru Fareed Zakaria reported that foreigners at the recent Davos economic forum are “panicking” at the prospect of Trump’s election. Zakaria cited particularly the prime ministers of Sweden and Finland, countries adjoining Russia which joined NATO on the understanding that the US security blanket would cover them. Biden aides should enlist foreign experts to say their governments support Biden and fear a Trump presidency.
Additionally, Democrats need to mount a massive drive to reverse low enthusiasm among their voters, especially compared to Republicans. Biden has the correct formula for doing that— “don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” Meanwhile, Trump may think he’s the Almighty (or at least the Messiah). He posted a video declaring “God gave us Trump” to “fight the Marxists,” “wrestle the Deep State” and “work past midnight.” The video was brilliantly mocked by a Lincoln Project ad entitled “God made a Dictator,” referencing Trump’s comment that he would be a dictator, though “only on Day One.”
Biden delivered a stirring speech at Valley Forge, Pa., declaring that Trump was a “despicable” danger to American democracy, citing his attempt to overthrow the 2020 election results to remain in power, culminating in the Jan. 6 riot. Biden has vowed to make the democracy issue a centerpiece of his campaign. He should inspire a huge chorus of allies to help him remind voters of the many times Trump has shown he’s a threat to democracy. Examples include his vow to order the Justice Department to prosecute his adversaries and his plan to replace thousands of federal workers with vetted personal loyalists who’ll serve his interests, not the country’s.
Even though Trump has demonstrated that he still has a solid hold on the Republican party, handily winning the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, the results there also demonstrated weaknesses in his appeal.
Exit polls showed that 19 percent of Republican voters in New Hampshire would be so dissatisfied if Trump was the GOP nominee that they wouldn’t vote for him. Fifteen percent of Iowa caucus participants said the same.
GOP pollster Whit Ayers told the Wall Street Journal that a candidate needs to win 90 percent of his party’s voters to win election. In New Hampshire, 44 percent of Republican primary voters were independents and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s only remaining challenger, carried them, 58 percent to 39 percent. Trump lost Independent voters in New Hampshire, 68-31. In 2020, he won 37 percent of the Independent vote nationally and still lost the election.
A recent Gallup poll found that, by 66-29, voters said they would not vote for a candidate charged with a felony, as Trump has been on 91 counts. If Trump is convicted 70 percent would not vote for him. (However, the same poll found that 66 percent would not vote for a candidate over 80.)
In one legal proceeding after another, Trump has shown contempt for judges, prosecutors, court staff, and litigants. He repeatedly says the legal system has been weaponized against him, justifying his plan to weaponize it against adversaries. And he’s arguing that a president can’t be prosecuted for any crime allegedly committed while in office—including, theoretically, murder.
Besides referring to opponents as “vermin”—another Hitlerian epithet — Trump has threatened to blacklist Haley donors (though she’s raised more than $1.5 million since he made the threat).
Instead of meekly retiring after her losses to Trump, Haley has started going after Trump more strongly. On NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday, she hit him for “playing the victim,” “ranting,” being “insecure,” and “a loser.” Even though she might be drubbed in her home state primary Feb. 24, she’s vowed to stay in the race at least through Super Tuesday, March 5.
She’s clearly getting under Trump’s skin and, as she’s said, he can’t focus on national and international problems, as a presidential candidate ought to. She is only the latest target of his misogyny which should a be hammered in detail by the Biden campaign.
Biden also needs to stop talking about “Bidenomics,” which voters don’t understand, and start talking about actual programs—and the steadily-improving numbers for inflation, employment, wages, consumer confidence, and GDP growth.
He has been losing support among Hispanics, blacks, Arab-Americans, and young people—and his support for Israel hasn’t helped with the latter three groups, plus liberals. His campaign has to remind critics that he’s denounced Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing of Gaza civilians, worked to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, and has aroused the ire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s by advocating a Palestinian state.
Finally, the Biden campaign has to gird itself to counter dirty tricks committed by the Trump campaign and state and local GOP officials, ranging from restrictive voter access laws, installing 2020 election deniers as election overseers and poll workers bent on voter intimidation—all catalogued by the Brennan Center for Justice.
With Trump and his followers insisting falsely that the 2020 election was fraudulent, it’s to be expected that, as part of their campaign of revenge and retribution, they’d try to steal this one using techniques they charge Democrats with employing such as programming election computers to switch Biden votes to Trump and stuffing ballot boxes. The Democratic party can’t let them get away with it.
And lastly, it would help if Taylor Swift, who endorsed Biden in 2020, would campaign for and with him.