Advisers to President Trump worry he’s spending too much time attacking Joe Biden, the New York Times reports. “Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Biden have defied the pleadings of his own aides, who think almost any other candidate would be easier to defeat, and left Republicans puzzled while delighting Biden supporters,” write Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman. They quote Democratic congressman Cedric Richmond, who says, “It just shows everybody that the vice president is the candidate Trump is most concerned about.”
Well, okay. But if Representative Richmond ever found himself concerned about an opponent — he won in his gerrymandered district last year by 50 points — wouldn’t he attempt to head off the threat? It’s not as though Trump waited for Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination before beginning his campaign against her. Nor is Trump focusing exclusively on Biden. He’s gone after Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Elizabeth Warren, too. Biden’s front-runner status is why he receives the most attention from the president.
It’s a status that may change, and soon. Biden has done well since announcing his candidacy: His lead in the polls has expanded, he had the best one-day fundraising haul, and he’s reminded people that the Democratic party is not the socialist freak show they see on television (at least not entirely). What Biden hasn’t faced is sustained criticism from his Democratic opponents or scrutiny from the media. He will, though. And there’s no telling how he will hold up.
If Biden does emerge as the Democratic nominee, Trump has every reason to begin defining his opponent as soon as possible. The plan against Biden isn’t Operation Overlord. He’s too old, too comfortable in Washington, too wedded to the Obama legacy to act as a change agent. He’s also gaffe prone, and has practically handed Trump material for attack ads in recent weeks. First he said China is “not competition for us.” Then, last week, he suggested he’s open to taxpayer-funded health insurance for illegal immigrants. It would be political malpractice for any candidate to pass up the opportunity to draw contrasts with these positions. Even if the New York Times says it’s a mistake.