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Trump Aides Are Desperately Betting on the Left to Cancel Biden

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Trump Aides Are Desperately Betting on the Left to Cancel Biden

Going into 2020, Republicans appear to have coalesced around a strategy to keep Donald Trump in office: bait Democrats into nominating a far-left progressive, and thereby drive centrists back, screaming, into Trump’s open arms. The two biggest threats to this plan, G.O.P. insiders suggest, are Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden , whom they see as more palatable in a general election than a socialist like Bernie Sanders .

There is already something of a plan in place to tank Beto, even if it’s not fully baked . Republicans figure they can play up suspicions on the left that O’Rourke, who previously drew donations from the pro-Republican business establishment , is a phony progressive who doesn’t really believe in anything besides his own celebrity. (The Club for Growth is already out with an ad decrying O’Rourke’s “white male privilege.”)

Biden, however, is another matter. Although he has yet to declare his candidacy, the former vice president consistently holds the lead in Democratic primary polling, and has the highest net favorability rating of any potential candidate in the mix. Trump, according to Politico , is rightly concerned. Behind closed doors, he reportedly fixates on how he would perform in a head-to-head matchup against Biden, and has recently “peppered” aides with questions about Biden’s polling and what it would mean for a general election.

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The president’s advisers are reportedly reassuring him that Biden won’t make it that far. Sanders is close on Biden’s heels, as are a number of loud-and-proud progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and rising star Pete Buttigieg. Biden, these advisers say, is an unwanted relic from a white man’s era, lacking the sensitivity to navigate the political minefield that is the progressive left.

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Trump advisers, noting the way Biden recently backpedaled after publicly calling Vice President Mike Pence a “decent guy,” told the president the incident was a perfect example of the verbal tightrope Biden will have to walk if he declares his candidacy. When fellow Democrats and the party’s progressive base accused Biden of legitimizing “America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader,” as former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon wrote in a viral tweet, Biden quickly said he was “making a point in a foreign policy context . . . But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights.”

“We thought that was so indicative of the fact that this guy is going to be so beholden to the left, if he can’t even make a simple statement about his successor without kowtowing a minute later,” the White House official said

There’s a bit of wish fulfillment happening here. Trump’s advisers aren’t wrong that Biden lacks the “woke” quotient to rule Twitter. But out in the real world, he remains the most popular Democratic candidate by far. Politico reports that “some of Trump’s advisers have even compared Biden to Jeb Bush , ” Trump’s favorite 2016 punching bag, “an establishment favorite who entered the 2016 G.O.P. primary with widespread name recognition, a professional operation, and a massive war chest, only to admit defeat before his home-state primary.” But of course, Biden possesses a political superpower that Bush sorely lacked: the sort of 1,000-watt charisma that only comes around once or twice in a generation. (There is no situation in which Biden would have to beg an audience to please clap .) Biden connects with voters in a way that Jeb Bush never did

Trumpworld is hoping that Democrats are ready to reject the Obama legacy, just as Republican primary voters savagely turned on the Bush dynasty when Trump gave voice to their frustrations over immigration, taxes, and trade. But while the socialist left is ascendant, its purists still comprise a tiny (if vocal) minority of the Democratic Party. In a recent Harris Poll that asked Democrats to pick the label they most identified with, a plurality said they would describe themselves as an “Obama Democrat.” Less than 10 percent picked “Democratic socialist” and “socialist” combined. If Trump aides are betting on Democrats to self-sabotage by nominating the ghost of Saul Alinsky, they might want to find another strategy—and stop telling the president what he wants to hear

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