Presidential re-elections are normally a referendum on the incumbent. George W. Bush won re-election because he managed to shift the election to a referendum on John Kerry. (He was also a president in the middle of a war, and the Ohio Secretary of State was also his Ohio campaign chairman.) Trump is now — desperately — trying to do the same thing to Joe Biden. But, as Taegan Goddard writes in a (members-only) post, it’s not working:
Trump has tried calling Biden sleepy, creepy, corrupt and a socialist. He’s claimed Biden is allied with China, wants open borders and was part of the “Obamagate” conspiracy to spy on Trump’s 2016 campaign.
But if Trump defines Biden as everything, he effectively doesn’t define him at all. (It’s interesting to note Trump has had the same problem with Nancy Pelosi.)
And if Trump can’t define Biden, this election will default to a referendum on his presidency. That has to make Republicans very nervous.
Goddard left out Trump’s attempt to extort (not blackmail, by the way) Ukraine into making up dirt on Biden and his son, and got impeached for his pains. Now Ron Johnson is trying to do the same thing using the Senate powers of subpoena, and so far that doesn’t seem to be going very far. (Johnson is moronic enough that he won’t be able to disguise what he’s doing.) Trump has gone after Obama, the most popular political figure in the country, hoping to smear Biden by association; that is almost certain to backfire. The Tara Reade story has turned out to be as phony as Jane Roe’s “conversion” (and yes, the two can be linked that way).
So, a couple of things: First, Trump’s inability to stay focused is actually helpful to us, since it means he can’t stick to one line of attack long enough to make it work. This scattershot approach of his is a clear sign of desperation, and each failed line of attack makes the next one even less plausible.
The second thing — and this is important for us — is that our side can never let up on fighting back against these attacks. Not so much by defending Biden as by attacking the attacks: they are ridiculous, they are riddled with fact holes and logic holes; they only go to prove how desperate Trump is getting. In other words, use the attacks themselves to attack Trump.
Now, we need some time defining Biden, but Biden is well-known and has been for decades, so it’s more a matter of reminding people who he is. But making sure that each Trump attack on Biden reflects only on Trump is, IMNSHO, even more important.