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Trump is enemy No. 1 as Biden makes it official

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President Biden is laser focused on preventing former President Trump from returning to the White House, a message voiced loud and clear in his Tuesday reelection announcement. 

Facing no formidable primary challengers yet, Biden is taking direct aim at Trump, warning the country — and anxious Democrats — that four more years of Trump is something the nation cannot afford.

It’s a strategy that makes sense for Biden, who has long cast himself as the Democrat best positioned to win over Trump and who has already beaten him once before. And it shows how Trump’s apparent strength in a GOP presidential primary is a boon to the president’s reelection hopes.

The aim to focus on Trump was out in full force when the first two scenes of the president’s campaign video were images from the Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters showing some of the worst violence that day. 

In keeping with a regular theme of calling out “MAGA Republicans” — a reference that plays off of Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan — Biden highlights some of the country’s staunchest conservatives. Among them, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who called him a “liar” at the State of the Union, and Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is largely seen as Trump’s main GOP rival — and one who could be a more problematic opponent for Biden.

“Every day, Donald Trump makes it easier for the Biden campaign to position him as a threat to our democracy. Voters understood that in the midterms, and I expect them to see even more proof of that between now and Election Day,” said a former official on a Democratic presidential campaign.

Tuesday already highlighted that the 2024 election is shaping up to be a negative one. 

“Make no mistake about it, this is going to be an ugly election,” the former official said. “But the president and his team understand the gravity of the moment and are playing for keeps.”

Biden often paints Republicans as extreme, bemoaning at various events that this “isn’t your grandfather’s Republican party,” a message that he’s expected to lean into more in 2024.

But the current focus on Trump is just one area before the rest of the campaign strategy takes shape, argued lobbyist and former Democratic National Committee official Ivan Zapien. 

“This is step one in a triathlon; I suspect his message will evolve as the world and country does. I think reminding people of why he got in is a good start,” he said. “I think most insiders are paying attention to his first hires, kitchen cabinet, and saddling up for the ride and figuring out their role and how to help.”

The president has faced doubts for months about whether he is up for running for reelection. He is 80 years old and would be 86 at the end of a second term. Putting emphasis on the dangers of Trump, who is 76 years old and comes with baggage — including federal investigations involving top secret classified documents and attempts to overturn his 2020 elections loss — could be a way to distract from those questions.

One Democratic strategist shared that Democrats are privately saying the president’s age and health are a problem, but few want to air that out in the open.

“No one wants to say what they’re really thinking, which is, ‘How is he going to do this?’ He’s going to be 81 this year. How is he going to be able to compete? How is he going to be able to maintain a grueling schedule day in and day out?” the strategist said.

The focus on Trump also distracts from Biden’s shortcomings — namely, stubborn inflation and unease about the economy, including regular warnings about a potential recession.

Those economic woes are likely to loom over Biden on the campaign trail.

Other Republicans who have announced they are running for president, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Tim Scott (Ga.), are not in the video. 

Instead, Biden’s campaign seems to be focused squarely on Trump and his current crop of allies in Congress.

“He’s not going to highlight really anybody else who’s running for president unless he can lump them in as MAGA extremists or whatever,” said GOP strategist Doug Heye said. “He’s not going to campaign against Nikki Haley or Tim Scott in this; Trump is the big target. He rallies their base, he turns off independent voters. Certainly, it’s a replay of his 2022 strategy where they had success.”

Bruce Mehlman, a former official under President George W. Bush and founding partner at Mehlman Consulting, argued that Biden’s team is leaning into the strategy because they think Trump will lose moderates on issues, like claims of election fraud in the 2020 election and abortion.

“Team Biden believes they beat Trump before so they can beat him again, age won’t prove decisive and health won’t become a problem, Trump will cede the center by relitigating 2020 and Republicans will lose independents over abortion fundamentalism, and no one on the bench is as likely to win,” Mehlman said.

Source: The Hill

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