The media is breathlessly reporting that Joe Biden is not only running away from the rest of the Democratic field, he runs well ahead of President Trump in early head to head matchups. They admiringly report that Biden has been able to handle all of the softballs they have served up thus far. As best we can determine, his core message seems to be, “I’m not Trump!”
Bear in mind, it's early. This will be a fifteen round fight. We all know that Joe has quick hands. He also has a glass jaw. His previous entrees into the presidential ring ended early. He has never gone the distance with someone like Donald Trump, who has demonstrated that he can both deliver and take a haymaker.
So if you were managing old Joe’s campaign, what would you do?
First, you would hope that all of his previous gaffs and boneheaded mistakes will be covered up by your fellow travelers in the media. Most of these have been recorded and are tailor-made for social media. The Onion has a library full of Biden buffoonery. So, despite the media’s best efforts, most of the gaffs will be (re)seen by large portions of the electorate.
Second, pretend that the Obama presidency was an overwhelming success. Convincing the Democratic base will be easy. Independent, swing voters remain more skeptical. At some point the former VP will be asked to cite concrete examples. That soup is a bit thin. The failed ObamaCare experiment, a sluggish economy, flat wages and the rise of ISIS (ISIL) all combine to make that a tough sell. The on-coming train of a serious investigation of the origins of the spying on the Trump campaign won’t make things any easier.
Third, you must ignore and/or belittle the amazing successes of the Trump Administration. They are not insignificant. The Clinton team focused on one theme. Remember, “It’s the economy, stupid!” The media has done a pretty good job of convincing average Americans that they got little out of the tax cuts. Convincing them that they are not benefiting from the roaring Trump economy will not be as easy. People not only see it, they feel it.
The Trump accomplishments extend well beyond a strong economy. The ISIS savages (the guys that President Obama called a JV team) have been decapitated. Our friends and adversaries have been put on notice, there is a new sheriff in town. He made it clear to our allies in NATO that the days of the free ride are ending. After sizing up the chubby dictator from North Korea, Trump began to tighten the anaconda grip. Kim may not realize it yet, but that labored breathing he is experiencing signals the beginning of the end of his nuclear ambitions.
After decades of promises to make America energy independent, Donald Trump is making good on it. Thanks in part to his pro-energy policies, we are quickly becoming an international energy powerhouse.
Candidate Trump’s critics mocked him when he promised to renegotiate NAFTA and get a better deal. They mock no more. That may explain why they are more guarded concerning the current Chinese trade negotiations.
President Trump’s accomplishments extend well beyond these. They are all the more impressive when we consider the headwinds he has faced. The shameless, endless investigations, the vicious attacks and the withering criticism from an antagonist press would have bested a lesser man. This President has succeeded in spite of it. And that may represent his greatest accomplishment of all.
If you’re advising candidate Biden, do you recommend appeasing the far left in your base? The stratospherically expensive Green New Deal, extending voting rights to terrorists or Medicare for all, none of them play well in Peoria. You are pretty much ham-strung on border security as well.
So as you take an objective look at the circumstances, what do you suggest? The tried and true strategy of course, is to stick to name calling. Call Trump a hate-filled, rich racist or a white nationalist (whatever that is). Remind people that Trump is little more than Putin’s personal hand puppet. A bit shop warn, but desperate times may require it.
All things considered, you’re probably stuck with, “I’m not Trump!”
Gil Gutknecht served six terms each in the Minnesota and the U.S. House of Representatives. He writes about healthcare and political issues of the day.