The Trump re-election campaign had big plans for a post-primary assault on Joe Biden. They were going to seek to define him while their advantages were at their peak. Politico reports that Trump’s campaign is prepared to use the president’s enormous edge in cash to define Biden before he can unify the Democratic Party and start positioning himself for the fall.
Trump has $92 million in cash on hand. Biden has $7 million. With Bernie Sanders ready to drop out of the race, Biden will be able to fundraise for the general election. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be unseemly for Trump to call for “unity” while savaging his opponent.
With the death toll rising and daily life grinding to a halt, Trump’s sprawling political operation has put on hold any plans to use its nine-figure war chest to unload on the former vice president. The strategy, mimicking the playbook of Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign against Mitt Romney, was aimed at crippling the lesser-funded Biden before he could unify the Democratic Party behind him and marshal his forces for November.
The reprieve is a blessing for Biden: Rather than spending valuable time fending off an assault, he is free to present himself as a steady leader amid a national crisis and to regroup for the general election.
Needless to say, Obama’s strategy worked. Before the summer of 2012, Romney had been thoroughly trashed by the Obama campaign and was never really able to recover.
Not only has the campaign been put on hold, but independent groups are also pausing.
Club for Growth President David McIntosh, whose pro-Trump group has aired a series of TV commercials bolstering the president, said he would be temporarily shelving any plans to take down Biden.
“The response to the coronavirus has pushed the whole election off the front page,” McIntosh said, “and it will restart and readjust once the immediate crisis is over.”
Trump isn’t sitting idly by. He has taken the attack on Biden to Twitter where he’s gotten in a few zingers. And at the press conference on Wednesday, Trump needled Biden, saying he was “beating Sleepy Joe Biden by a lot in Florida” and “in other states.”
But as Newt Gingrich points out, Trump’s best ad for his re-election would be managing the crisis well.
“If President Trump manages the pandemic well and gets the economy restarted he gets reelected,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally who is currently residing in coronavirus-devastated Italy. “If he fails to do so he probably gets defeated.”
“The Trump team should focus on communicating about the virus and the economy,” Gingrich added, before noting that there would be “plenty of time for Biden later.”
How much later is the question. Certainly, after everyone settles into the new normal in a month or so, Trump will feel compelled to assail the former vice president. The good thing is, he will have plenty of ammunition by then. Biden is going to have to come out from behind his handlers to speak every once in a while. As we’ve seen, even in set-piece addresses, Biden can flub it.
By the fall, Biden will be redefined — and probably doomed.