Top 1 Magazine

Top One Magazine

Biden world confident in a Trump rematch but preps for a surprise

President Joe Biden and his campaign team continue to believe that they will square off against Donald Trump in a general election rematch of four years prior.

But after the Republican presidential primary field grew substantially last week, with a big-name governor and senator joining the race and other GOP heavyweights considering taking the plunge, they’re also not leaving anything to chance.

Biden’s nascent campaign and the Democratic National Committee have been preparing to launch broadsides against a slew of current and potential GOP contenders, driven by the fear that their job may be tougher if Trump’s name is not at the top of the Republican ticket.

Their efforts moved into higher gear this week with the entry of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis into the race. His glitch-filled launch on Twitter Spaces drew widespread mockery from Trump and other Republicans. The Biden campaign moved swiftly too, trolling DeSantis with a tweet to its own fundraising page (noting that “this link works”) and buying Google ads for searches like “DeSantis flop” and “DeSantis disaster.”

But the campaign and, in particular, the DNC also welcomed DeSantis to the fray with more substantive broadsides. They unleashed a series of attacks and opposition research dumps, highlighting a number of his positions which they perceive could be general election vulnerabilities, including his endorsement of a restrictive abortion ban, his support for book bans and his fight with Disney over LGTBQ legislation.

Democrats feel that allows them to continue the strategy that worked in last year’s midterms — painting nearly any GOP contender as out of step with most Americans.

“They’re all extreme. I grew up under the Ronald Reagan Republican party that wrapped itself in the American flag,” said DNC chair Jaime Harrison. “Well, part of America is freedom: the freedom to speak, the freedom of choice. And these guys are everything against freedom.”

This account of the emerging dynamics of the race was based on interviews with more than a dozen people working with or alongside the campaign, many of whom agreed to speak freely if granted anonymity.

The DNC carried out the lion’s share of the swipes on DeSantis, as Team Biden remains a skeleton staff having launched a month ago. But the DNC, its officials said, has already ramped up its campaign apparatus. It has begun fundraising in all 50 states and has deployed surrogates and staffers to trail DeSantis and other Republicans as they hold events.

They also have begun hammering away at the other Republicans in the race, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who jumped in just days before DeSantis, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, while preparing for the likely entry of former Vice President Mike Pence.

While not all Republicans can be directly tied to some of Trump’s record, or his role in inspiring the Jan. 6 riot, Biden aides still believe they can be lashed to the former president. DNC staffers have begun branding all Republican hopefuls as enablers of MAGA policies, making their support of Trump a throughline.

“It’s not a stretch to paint with a broad brush and make the other Republicans out to be ‘Trump Lite,’” said Basil Smikle, a veteran Democratic strategist and former head of the New York State Democratic Party. “Nearly all of them have supported him before. The White House can also make the large umbrella case that the GOP are threats to democracy itself and the protection of personal liberties.”

DNC aides are also casting a wide net, researching the background of other GOP candidates who may not even jump in the race, including Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a potentially formidable foe. Democrats believe that while a moderate Republican might prove a more serious general election opponent, others who may enter the race — like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sunnunu and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — stand little chance of surviving a GOP primary electorate that has moved decisively to the right.

And Biden aides believe, no matter whom the Republicans nominate, that the GOP playbook against the president — with attacks on his age, his son Hunter Biden and socialism — will be the same as the one that failed in 2020.

Those close to Biden do harbor worries about the Republicans nominating a fresh face, someone who, during a time of inflation and discord, could tap into an anti-incumbent sentiment pervasive in America and in democracies across the globe.

“Republicans should be paying attention to his low approval. This is not a president that the American people feel is doing a good job on their behalf,” said Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee. “The vast majority of Americans feel like we’re not heading in the right track.”

Most presidential re-election campaigns can be framed as “change vs. more of the same,” though a Biden vs. Trump retread would be “more of *this* same vs. more of *that* same.”

But if Biden faces someone other than Trump, the dynamics of the race would immediately change, becoming a referendum on the president’s record. It also would focus attention on the president’s age. Trump is only three years younger than Biden, but some of the other Republicans are decades younger and would present a stark contrast on a debate stage next fall alongside an 81-year-old president.

“The framing becomes, ‘Do you want four more years of Biden or something different?’” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who was a senior advisor on Marco Rubio’s 2016 White House bid. “The Democrats will have to spend a lot more time trying to define the competition: everyone has already made up their mind about Donald Trump, very few have made up their mind about Ron DeSantis. And all of Biden’s vulnerabilities — including his age — are exaggerated if he’s running against a fresh face.”

Operatives in both parties stress it’s still very early in the race. But as Biden world surveys the GOP field, they see little to shake their belief that anyone other than Trump will be standing at the end of the primary battle — even if that is two or three more criminal indictments from now.

Biden himself has told those closest to him that the Republican party’s best moment to turn the page from Trump was in the weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to three people close to him. And while Biden yearns for a return to the pre-GOP of his Senate days, he now believes that his predecessor’s grip on the Republican base will likely hold through next November.

The White House likes its chances in a rematch. Aides believe Trump’s behavior is disqualifying for voters, and that many Americans would not like a return to the chaos that dominated his administration. Moreover, Biden’s political brain trust is fixated on the independent, swing voters — in many cases, suburban women — who went for Trump in 2016 but broke hard away from him four years later.

What has Trump done since leaving office, the Biden advisors ask, to win back those voters? The answer, they believe, is nothing, as they point to the Capitol insurrection, his dinner with a white supremacist and his mounting legal peril. He can be tied, aides say, to the same extreme positions on abortion and guns as other Republicans. And while a criminal indictment or two may even help Trump rally GOP support in the primaries, they would likely repel swing voters in a general election.

But the electorate remains deeply divided, and both the 2016 and 2020 elections were decided by a relatively small number of votes in a handful of battleground states. Trump made inroads in 2020 among some Black, Latino and Asian American voters. Biden’s poll numbers remain middling, his age is a factor and there are worries of economic headwinds that could damage any incumbent’s re-election chances.

“His vulnerabilities have to do with his age and whether it will be a pro-Biden vote to go along with an anti-Trump vote,” said Smikle. “A lot of Democrats who like his record still don’t view him as a large mobilizing figure.”

Go To Source