Trump Fears Biden The Most Of All The Democratic Challengers

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump fears former Vice-President Joe Biden the most of all the Democrats currently running against him.

Almost immediately after former Vice-President Joe Biden entered the race for President on Thursday, President Trump began attacking him on Twitter and in other comments. and the reason why appears to be self-evident:

Hours after Joe Biden posted an online video announcing his 2020 White House bid, President Donald Trump responded on Twitter. “Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe,” Trump taunted the former vice president on Thursday. “I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign.”

Trump’s insults were actually masking respect — and genuine concern about Biden’s potential to win, Trump advisers say.

As early as last fall, Trump was talking privately with aides about the threat Biden posed: “How are we gonna beat Biden?” he would ask.

When reassured that the moderate Biden would never defeat several of his more liberal rivals, Trump has pushed back: “But what if he does?”

The conversations, relayed by a Republican strategist with direct knowledge of the interactions, reflect the president’s assessment that Biden poses the biggest threat to his re-election, uniquely capable of competing with him in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that carried him to victory in 2016.

That may also be because, of the 20 Democrats running for president, none has quite as much in common with Trump as Joe Biden.

The two share some defining traits. Trump is 72, and Biden is 76. They are generational peers who have appealed to voters with a raw, unscripted approach to politics. Both have a proven ability to win over blue-collar voters without a college education — Americans who were once solid Democrats but who have increasingly migrated to the GOP.

They share some weaknesses, too.Both are famous for talking far more often and for much longer than their aides would like. Both are prone to remarks that induce cringes even among their supporters.

Biden’s official entry into the race capped two years of mudslinging between him and the president. The two senior citizens have even engaged in verbal fisticuffs, with Biden telling a crowd at the University of Miami in March 2018 that he would have “beat the hell out of Trump” if they were in high school, given the president’s crude remarks about women.

Trump responded that the former vice president “would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”

Biden has been on the president’s political radar for several months. Trump has long known that the former vice president, who considered a bid in 2016, was likely to run in 2020.

As long ago as March 2018, Trump was crowd-testing nicknames for Biden, asking audiences whether they preferred “Crazy Joe,” “Sleepy Joe,” or “One Percent Joe” — a reference, Trump said, to the percentage of primary votes Biden had captured during his failed presidential bids.

“I think he ran three times and he never had more than one percent, so we call him One Percent Joe,” Trump said at a Nevada rally in October 2018. “And then remember what happened? Obama came along and took him off the trash heap and made him vice president. But he never had more than one percent.”

Trump’s mockery of Biden belies a belief that the former vice president is a true political threat, according to a Republican strategist close to the

Trump campaign. “The candidates he doesn’t talk about, it’s a signal that he doesn’t take them seriously,” this person said.

“We have had a number of conversations about potential challengers, and Biden has been at the top of the list because of his polling numbers,” said a Republican lawmaker who talks frequently with the president. “He is seen as one of the most difficult potential challengers because of his appeal to independents and his likable style.”

Members of the Trump campaign and loyal Republicans. meanwhile, are trying to push the argument that Biden is out of step with his own party and will have to be pulled to the left if he’s going to win the nomination:

Inside the Trump campaign, the president’s political team is counting on an increasingly liberal Democratic Party pulling Biden, a lifelong moderate, to the left during what political observers anticipate will be a bruising primary fight.

Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29, has appeared to acknowledge that drift of the party, telling a crowd in Delaware last month that he has the “most progressive record of anybody” running for the White House.

Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said: “It doesn’t matter who comes out of the Democrat convention next year, because whoever it is will be beat up, broke, without a national operation, with a DNC that’s in debt, and saddled with all of the socialist policies they will have adopted in order to win the nomination. Like the rest of them, Biden will have to embrace all of the socialist policies in order to be successful in the leftist field.”

Republican operatives unaligned with the Trump campaign echoed that view.

“The positions that he held in the ’70s, those are all in play. They are an affront to Republicans in 2019, never mind the Democrats, so I just don’t see a lane developing for him,” said Chris LaCivita, a GOP political strategist, citing Biden’scomments and positions from decades ago that are out of step with today’s Democratic Party.

Here’s the President’s tweet about Biden’s entry into the race:

While there is much to be desired about Trump’s skills as a politician, his apparent assessment that Joe Biden is the greatest potential threat to his re-election is one that strikes me as being largely correct. Unlike most of the other candidates for the Democratic nomination. Biden has an appeal to the white working-class voters that helped elect the President in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the Midwest that proved to be the difference maker in the 2016 election and which will likely prove to be decisive again in the 2020 election, If Biden can peel away enough of those voters, then he could end up bringing one or more of those states back into the Democratic column in 2020. which would be enough to provide a win in the Electoral College. Biden is also likely to have a similar appeal to voters in states like Ohio, where Trump won by a wider margin than in other parts of the Midwest. For this reason alone, Biden seems like he could be the biggest threat that Trump would face going forward.

It’s also interesting to note that the this report makes clear something that the White House has never really acknowledged before, namely the fact that Trump tends to focus his attacks and demeaning monikers on the candidates he believes to be the biggest threat to him. This was apparent during the 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination, during which Trump reserved most of his demeaning attacks on candidates such as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio, and to some extent John Kasich. If nothing else this is a significant “tell” as poker players would call it. If Trump is attacking you, it’s because he fears you. In any case, we can expect the attack against Biden to continue as long as he continues to lead the Democratic field. That’s good news for Biden, and a signal to the rest of us regarding what Trump is thinking.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. SenyorDave says:

    I think you underestimate the enthusiasm factor regarding Biden. Or more appropriately put, the lack of enthusiasm. I would crawl over hot coals to vote for any Trump opponent, but that’s me. He may have a big problem with women, given that he really doesn’t seem to get it. Only a few days after he said he would be more mindful and respectful about people’s space he was making jokes about it. That shouldn’t sit well with anyone, and calls into question his judgment. Also, he calls Anita Hill to apologize now? Totally self-serving, and she rejected his overture, correctly seeing it as crassly opportunistic.
    I don’t see him being the nominee, I don’t think he will do well in the debates and the harassment thing will hurt (and I don’t think he is a harasser, I just think he doesn’t respect people’s space and assumes that everyone is a toucher like he is)

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  2. Gustopher says:

    Biden is also the opponent that Trump is most familiar with.

    I don’t think that he spends his time poring over detailed analysis before deciding to call someone Sleepy Joe.

  3. charon says:

    No one knows anything until the voting starts. That said. I believe there is a perception of Joe as passive, complacent, don’t rock the boat. Well known thus widespread support that I suspect is pretty tepid, can’t see his path to inspiring enthusiasm in the sort of Democrats who vote in primaries and, especially, caucuses.

    Not the guy people expect any bold initiative from.

  4. charon says:

    Biden has an appeal to the white working-class voters that helped elect the President in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the Midwest that proved to be the difference maker in the 2016 election and which will likely prove to be decisive again in the 2020 election,

    There are lots and lots of working class voters who are not white, what’s Joe’s appeal for them? Meanwhile, many WWC are conservative Christians, a demographic that has become pretty much out of reach to Democrats.

    I think chasing the WWC is a pretty low yield enterprise.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    If Biden were smart he’d get t-shirts printed up with “Sleepy Joe vs. Despicable Don” or some such formula. He should laugh at the moniker, talk about Trump running short on nicknames.

    “I was kinda hoping for Balding Joe but I guess President Combover doesn’t want to go there.”

    “Or maybe Faithful Joe – something Trump never was.”

    “I get a little emotional, I’m an emotional guy, I tend to cry when I hear the national anthem. So maybe Patriotic Joe, but well, that’s another word Trump doesn’t want to bring up.”

    This name-calling thing is one of Trump’s very few rhetorical devices, the smart move is to drive right into it. The temptation will be to try a flanking move, which is often prudent, but I think you send your forces right at the enemy’s strongest point. Warren showed how not to do it. Biden should talk to AOC, she has a good instinct for this.

  6. Kathy says:

    I wouldn’t pick a candidate base don what Senile Don thinks.

  7. al Ameda says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If Biden were smart he’d get t-shirts printed up with “Sleepy Joe vs. Despicable Don” or some such formula. He should laugh at the moniker, talk about Trump running short on nicknames.

    “Chernobyl Don” — works for me
    “The Queen of Queens” — although that one may have problems.

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Something else I’d do: hire an activist to dress up in a Trump costume and through a loudspeaker say nothing but direct quotes from Trump. Send him to Trump rallies to repeat ‘grab ’em by the pussy,’ and assorted Trumpian gibberish. Make the Trumpies attack someone for saying Trump’s own words.

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  9. An Interested Party says:

    As mentioned in another post, if Biden serves no other purpose, he can well serve as an effective attacker of the president and lay down the blueprint for others to follow…Trump is an insecure, vulgar, childish social climber…there’s plenty of material to mock there…and as we have seen, when he’s mocked correctly, he takes the bait, hook, line, and sinker…

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    @charon: I don’t think the white working class are out of reach or not worth spending time on. Even 5 points in this category would make a big difference. Here are a couple reviews of exit polls: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/9/18/16305486/what-really-happened-in-2016, https://edition.cnn.com/election/2016/results/exit-polls

    There is a fraction of die hard pro-lifers, and we’ll never get them. But that’s hardly the entire WWC, or even the entire evangelical vote.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @charon:

    Meanwhile, many WWC are conservative Christians, a demographic that has become pretty much out of reach to Democrats.

    I would looooove to see one of the 917 Democratic candidates run on an explicit campaign of scriptural reasons why Trump is anti-Christian and evil. I mean, it isn’t hard — pretty much everything Jesus ever said can be paraphrased as “don’t be Trump, or one of the people who votes for him”.

    It would cause heads to explode throughout the Conservaverse, and it would instigate ridiculous amounts of circular firing squad in that sector. It would be awesome.

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  12. James Pearce says:

    In any case, we can expect the attack against Biden to continue as long as he continues to lead the Democratic field.

    Something to keep in mind for the supporters of the “single-digit” candidates: Trump will not worry about being original in these attacks.

    If you want to go with the Creepy Uncle Joe stuff, Trump will too.

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  13. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: something else to keep in mind — Trump has people around him that can point out the obvious. If it’s something the candidate is going to have to address anyway, it does no harm to bring it up now.

    Joe Biden being a hands on guy — everyone knows that.

    The story of Joe Biden and his neighbor’s labradoodle Paprika — completely unknown. Utterly damning if known, but no one knows it. Let’s all agree to never mention Paprika again.

  14. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT: I doubt it would have any impact. If you can’t distinguish between an AR-15 and an AK-47, or have ever had marble countertops, or listened to NPR, or whatever the idiotic purity test they choose is, then you’re really not qualified to discuss the morality of Donald Trump.

  15. Kathy says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I would looooove to see one of the 917 Democratic candidates run on an explicit campaign of scriptural reasons why Trump is anti-Christian and evil.

    It would make for entertaining viewing, but past that it wouldn’t do any good.

    Trump caters to their prejudices. They couldn’t care less how many women he banged and when, or even if he sleeps with a different woman every night. I dare say they wouldn’t care if he slept with any or all of his daughters, so long as he appoints anti-abortion judges and bars transgender people from the military. then he’s doing the Lord’s Work.

  16. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    I dare say [Evangelical Christians] wouldn’t care if he slept with any or all of his daughters, so long as he appoints anti-abortion judges and bars transgender people from the military. then he’s doing the Lord’s Work.

    Yeah, pretty much. [sigh…]

  17. Teve says:

    @Kathy: @Gustopher: @DrDaveT:

    I posted on the open thread a comment from a friend of mine who works in retail, about what a Trumper told him the other day about how Muslim women Democrats now control Congress and if Trump loses re-election the Democrats are going to take 70% of everyone’s paycheck and it’ll be identical to slavery and so on.

    reality is about as close to the Trump bubble as it is to those Hallmark movies that start off “inspired by true events…”

  18. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    There is a fraction of die hard pro-lifers, and we’ll never get them.

    Nope. White Evangelicals without College Education are out of reach. But everything else is up for grabs, including White Evangelicals with College Education and White Non-Religious without College Education.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    Color me skeptical. Blue-collar whites–or at least the ones that Biden might connect with–aren’t idiots about reality. They’re dinosaurs and they know it and their grandchildren know it. Do you think if Biden is elected unasked-for neck massages are going to come back in style? Is he going to vow to stock the White House with old-school democrats? Will all of his interns be retirees?

    Outside of pandering, Biden offers what every other Democrat will offer to the people he will be ostensibly pandering to–an economic future, but nothing cultural, at least if you’re wed to the ideal of a bar in Scranton filled with men telling lame dirty jokes.

  20. charon says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Nope. White Evangelicals without College Education are out of reach. But everything else is up for grabs, including White Evangelicals with College Education and White Non-Religious without College Education.

    Bullshit! I have a White Evangelical sibling with a masters from a respected university plus some additional post-graduate credits and he is as far out of reach as could be. Even supposedly intelligent people can be permanently gaslighted into that cult.

    @Jay L Gischer:

    There is a fraction of die hard pro-lifers, and we’ll never get them. But that’s hardly the entire WWC, or even the entire evangelical vote.

    The Democrats are already pretty appealing to non-white working class, including evangelicals. So your strategy for appealing to “economically anxious” whites would be??

  21. charon says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Outside of pandering, Biden offers what every other Democrat will offer to the people he will be ostensibly pandering to–an economic future, but nothing cultural,

    Biden will be offering don’t rock the boat, back to the Obama years, coast along. Which is not quite the same shtick as more dynamic candidates will be offering.

    Also, he supposedly connects more with the WWC but I am pretty skeptical there is much there there.

  22. charon says:

    @charon:

    The Democrats are already pretty appealing to non-white working class, including evangelicals.

    Actually, WWC already make up a pretty substantial portion of the Democratic vote, but they are, for the most part, not the “conservative” ones.

    People who vote based on economic issues mostly vote Democratic. People who care more about various bigotries or religion are Republicans.

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  23. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    If it’s something the candidate is going to have to address anyway, it does no harm to bring it up now.

    While I think a candidate should be prepared to handle mudslinging, I do not think it’s always appropriate to address it as if it were something other than mudslinging.

    If someone says “Clive Barker has AIDS” it does not actually help Clive Barker to say “I do not have AIDS.”

    @charon:

    Biden will be offering don’t rock the boat, back to the Obama years, coast along.

    I think you underestimate the number of people, not just in Democratic circles, who would find that appealing.

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  24. charon says:

    @charon:

    Actually, WWC already make up a pretty substantial portion of the Democratic vote, but they are, for the most part, not the “conservative” ones.

    So, conundrum: How do you reach voters who are voting based on bigotry or religion while continuing as the party of diversity?

    @James Pearce:

    ” … I think you underestimate the number of people, not just in Democratic circles, who would find that appealing. … ”

    The primaries will sort that out for us so we find out.

  25. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @charon:

    Bullshit! I have a White Evangelical sibling with a masters from a respected university plus some additional post-graduate credits and he is as far out of reach as could be. Even supposedly intelligent people can be permanently gaslighted into that cult.

    I did not say that all White Evangelicals with college education are up for grabs. I pointed out that many White Evangelicals with College degrees are up for grabs, specially younger White Evangelicals with College degrees.

    Ignoring half of the population is not a recipe to winning elections.

  26. charon says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    There was at least the implication that more educated voters are more reachable or persuadable than the less educated. I think the reverse is true, better educated people are better at generating sophistry to convince themselves to believe nonsense.

  27. charon says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Ignoring half of the population is not a recipe to winning elections.

    There is plenty of Venn diagram overlap of bigots and white evangelicals. The Democrats are the party of diversity, chasing the bigot vote won’t work out well.

  28. Archway says:

    @charon:

    I think I agree with what you’re saying here. I’ve also changed my mind on this. A year or two ago I thought Biden was the best bet, and I wish he’d run in 16.

    Yes, OH/PA/WI are probably the route to an EC victory (I know lots of smart analysts say that’s over-simplistic but that was Trump’s strategy and it worked.) Yes, Biden probably connects better with blue collar white people in those states than other Dem candidates.

    But… Those WWC voters who went for Trump in ’16 … *they still like Trump* The answer isn’t to say, “hey look, we’ve found another septuagenarian white man for you to vote for, except this one is a better person”, because the obnoxious bombast and offensive broadsides of Trump were partly what they liked. They’ll probably vote for him again regardless.

    The answer is probably to appeal to the voters in those states who don’t and never did like Trump, but who just didn’t bother voting last time (they weren’t enthused by Hilary or just assumed she was inevitable). An exciting candidate, someone who represents a big change from Trump, who gets people to the polling station who live in more diverse neighborhoods in big cities in those states. Not sure yet who that candidate is who enthuses people.

    Either that, or flip Texas. One of the two.

  29. James Pearce says:

    @charon:

    There is plenty of Venn diagram overlap of bigots and white evangelicals. The Democrats are the party of diversity, chasing the bigot vote won’t work out well.

    This is not a message that will win a national election.

  30. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Which message? The Venn Diagram overlap message, the Democrats are the party of diversity message, or the chasing the bigot vote not working out well [for a party with a diversity message] message?

    My own take is that the Democrats probably have enough voters to win the Electoral Vote–especially considering how narrow the margin in the three key state was–so the party doesn’t need to try to *attract* voters, they need to get every Democrat to get out a pull a lever (or whatever you do these days). They weren’t able to circle the wagons sufficiently last time and are starting to show they won’t do it this time either. If your point is “but… but… refusing to reach out to bigots is soooooo mean,” the your point is fatuous. And flumery. Pfui.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    This is not a message that will win a national election.

    Messages that are based on the truth often aren’t ones that will win a national election…

  32. James Pearce says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker:

    so the party doesn’t need to try to *attract* voters, they need to get every Democrat to get out a pull a lever

    Democrats are in turmoil right now, and there’s no better indication of that than the 20 or so candidates elbowing their way to the nomination, each trying to exert influence on what appears to be a rudderless, divided party that’s “up for grabs” to whatever species that manages to survive.

    To win the election, Democrats are going to have to appeal to different-minded people who will nonetheless support them. They will need to remember that this is about power, not branding. This about rebuilding trust, not putting bigger demands in your rider. It’s about understanding–to your core–that you can’t bin people into cute little boxes –ie, white evangelicals, “cigendered white men,” “deplorables”– and expect to be taken seriously as the anti-bigot brigade.

  33. charon says:

    @James Pearce:

    It’s about understanding–to your core–that you can’t bin people into cute little boxes –ie, white evangelicals, “cigendered white men,” “deplorables”– and expect to be taken seriously as the anti-bigot brigade.

    That’s your theory. Alternatively, you could say various demographics exist which behave differently and you can’t please everyone.

  34. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Democrats are in turmoil right now, and there’s no better indication of that than the 20 or so candidates elbowing their way to the nomination, each trying to exert influence on what appears to be a rudderless, divided party that’s “up for grabs” to whatever species that manages to survive.”

    And yet three years ago it was terrible that Democrats all got in line behind a single candidate, right James? Because whatever Democrats do, it’s wrong.

  35. Matt says:

    @charon: Yeah I know a guy who is super bright. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about a variety of fields. I loved talking with him because of that but don’t ever get religion or politics involved in the discussion. He’ll completely shut off his brain and go pure dogma all over you. He’ll straight up deny Christianity ever did anything bad. He straight up denied that the Srebrenica massacre occurred even when I showed him hard evidence. Started talking like a complete idiot at that point. Turns out he had a wife that nearly destroyed him emotionally so he ran to religion and thus became a borne again Evangelical to soothe his psychological injuries. So he’s got all kinds of issues as a result that he refuses to address including his obvious gay tendencies that he tries to repress. Anyway the point is he lives in a fantasy world when it comes to religion and politics while still being incredibly bright in other fields. He also believes that if you want to go to any non ivy league college all you have to do is get a job during summer and that’ll cover all your college and living expenses the rest of the year. He’s downright delusional about the current state of the country.

    How do you reach someone like that? I know people who have been trying for years and some have straight given up.