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Dems see Biden tortoise beating Trump hare in November race

Biden allies betting that ‘Americans want normal, not team extreme’

President Joe Biden departs the White House on March 19 for a swing through Nevada, Arizona and Texas.
President Joe Biden departs the White House on March 19 for a swing through Nevada, Arizona and Texas. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — The presidential election is shaping up as a classic tortoise-versus-hare tale.

Presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump, of course, is the high-energy rabbit. The 45th president’s full-throttled, zig-zagging campaign style, so far, is reminiscent of his successful 2016 campaign. Trump’s unsuccessful 2020 reelection bid was more subdued, his high-octane style hamstrung by the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic nominee, has settled in as the methodical tortoise. A top campaign aide last week acknowledged on a call with reporters that Trump-Biden II, a rematch that polls show most voters don’t want, likely will be “a very tough, close race.” Still, Biden campaign aides and his allies on Capitol Hill expressed confidence last week that, despite Trump’s ability to garner near-constant attention, the 46th president can again beat him with a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach.

“I think, by the end of it, the president will be able to get his message out. And the contrast between them will be evident,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., a close Biden ally who is often by the president’s side when he campaigns in the Keystone State, which once again is expected to be a crucial battleground.

Like other Democratic members, Casey said time is on Biden’s side: “It’s seven-and-a-half months of a long campaign [to go].”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a former Democratic National Committee chair, predicted most voters would — if they have not already — become exhausted by what she called Trump’s “venomous explosions of a lunatic.”

“It’s very simple. Americans want normal, not team extreme. And so Joe Biden needs to do exactly what he has been doing, which is focus on the priorities of the American people,” said Wasserman Schultz, advising the president to “talk about how much he’s improved the quality of people’s lives since he became president.” Specifically, she pointed to Biden’s record on prescription drug costs, job creation and a bipartisan infrastructure package his White House negotiated with congressional Democrats and Republicans.

To that end, Biden hit on each topic at just about every stop on a swing last week through two southwest battleground states, Nevada and Arizona, and one that polls suggest should again land in Trump’s column, Texas.

Biden and other Democrats have sounded warnings about Trump’s plans, should he lose his second consecutive presidential race — especially after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, for which Trump faces criminal charges over his role in revving up an angry crowd he knew was armed. In recent days, the Biden campaign has highlighted comments Trump made about a potential “bloodbath” during a March 16 campaign rally near Dayton, Ohio.

Trump later insisted he was talking about the impact on the auto workers from competitors in Mexico if he wasn’t the next president.

“We’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you’re not going to be able to sell those cars if I get elected. Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s gonna be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That’ll be the least of it,” Trump said at the March 16 rally.

But Trump’s attempts to blame others for the uproar over his use of the word “bloodbath” show the challenge facing Biden.

In the days since, Trump has ranted and raved on his social media platform and in interviews with friendly media outlets. He has deflected blame, called it yet another “hoax,” tried to change the meaning of his words and used the statement to raise more campaign cash — which he also is using to pay his hefty legal bills.

“At a rally … I predicted a bloodbath for American auto manufacturing if Crooked Joe Biden were to win in November,” stated a Trump campaign fundraising email blasted out on March 20. “You already know what happened next. The FAKE NEWS used edited clips to viciously misquote me.”

To be sure, some media outlets, at least initially, did publish reports that did not mention that Trump was discussing the American auto industry under a second Biden term. But his deflections ignore what could be the key words from that Ohio rally: “That’ll be the least of it.”

Trump and his surrogates contend that his words should be translated into a blanket warning about the state of the country if Biden wins a second term. Not so fast, Democratic members said late last week.

They want Biden to do just what he did during the southwest tour: Call out such statements by his expected general election foe just about anytime he’s in front of a microphone.

“I think the president needs to make sure, as he has been, that he focuses on voters understanding and being aware of the impact that his presidency has had on improving their lives, and that we don’t want to go back to a time of chaos of having someone who is a wannabe autocrat,” Wasserman Schultz said, referring to Trump. “Someone who would allow [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to run over Ukraine, someone who also would withdraw us from NATO, someone who would make … the United States and Americans less safe.”

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said Biden and his campaign should find ways to capitalize on its “ground game advantage,” and focus primarily on issues like the economy and safeguarding programs like Social Security. When it comes to calling out Trump by name, Wyden said the campaign should “pick your spots.”

“I mean, again, you know, if you operate under the assumption that this is going to be eight more months, you want a mix of those kinds of messages to focus on, you know, economics … and taking this vast machinery of the federal government and moving it so that it actually helps people,” Wyden said. “That’s what people want to hear about — not just this noisy kind of rhetoric.”

This report was corrected to accurately reflect a comment by Trump at his Ohio rally.

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