Inside Biden’s anti-Trump battle plan (and where Taylor Swift fits in)


“The game is on, the beginning of the general election,” said Rep. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire, chairwoman of the Coalition of New Democrats, a group of 97 centrist Democrats in the House of Representatives. “We have to win this.”

In a race without historical parallel (a contest between two presidents, one of them facing 91 criminal charges), Biden is making an extraordinary gamble, betting that Trump remains such an animating force in American life that the nation’s current leader can convert. the 2024 elections in a referendum not on himself but on his predecessor.

Resurrecting a version of the argument that worked for them in 2020, Biden’s team and his top allies plan to present Trump as a deadly threat to the American government and civil society, and are confident that fears of another turbulent Trump administration will be heightened. . he is concerned about Mr. Biden’s age and vitality. Polls have shown Biden trailing Trump in a head-to-head race, and many Democratic voters are reluctant to back him again.

The president’s advisers plan to combine a direct attack on Trump with a strong focus on abortion rights, presenting the issue as symbolic of broader conservative efforts to restrict personal freedoms.

They believe that the more the public sees and hears from Trump, the less people will be inclined to vote for him and the more the Biden campaign will be able to use his words on issues like abortion and healthcare against him.

Biden aides argue that voters remember the events of January 6, 2021 very well, making the day a touchstone similar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They believe an anti-Trump message about democracy can persuade Democratic voters to fall in line behind Biden and win over independents who backed Trump in 2020 but have disapproved of his behavior since then.

The January 6 attack weighs on Biden’s campaign in another way as well: unlike 2020, the president and his team believe that the end of the election will not be in November but on January 6, 2025, when Congress will count the votes. Electoral College votes.

Biden’s team is creating a legal strike force in battleground states to prepare for a variety of challenges, including basic voting rights issues but extending to the certification of the election under the Electoral Count Reform Act. , the 2022 federal law that was intended to prevent any repeat of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Democrats have successfully wielded a Trump-centric message even with the former president out of office, including in the 2022 midterms and in more than two dozen elections last year. Now that he appears likely to return to a presidential bid — and as he continues to shape the direction of Republican politics — Biden’s key allies see an opportunity to draw a stark contrast.

“Once again,” said Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, there is a “binary choice: democracy, freedom versus extremism and chaos. Real kitchen table issues that affect people or just nonsensical things that they make up.”

However, the election will not be about Trump in a vacuum.

Many Democrats remain concerned that focusing their attention on him will fail to energize voters who are already pessimistic about Biden. Polls show that some of the Black, Latino, young and suburban voters who carried him to victory in 2020 have since turned against him, in part over questions about his age, his economic record and his support for Israel.

Campaign advisers and top officials have largely ignored those concerns, believing that attitudes about the economy will, at least, change as it shows more signs of improvement.

To rally the growing number of voters who don’t consume news through traditional media, the campaign is trying to reach them on social media, with videos from influencers and even those with fewer followers.

During a stop in North Carolina this month, Biden made an hour-long visit to the home of a supporter who had his student loans canceled through a federal program. The man’s son later posted a video of Mr. Biden. visit on tiktokthat attracted millions of views, a model of how the campaign hopes to reach voters in new ways.

The campaign has started conversations with Famous and social media stars about promoting Mr. Biden on Instagram and TikTok. When Biden went on a fundraising tour of Southern California in December, the campaign found time to meet with influencers and pitch them on posting pro-Biden content. There are also plans, first reported Sunday by NBC Newsto hold a fundraiser with two former Democratic presidents: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

The biggest and most influential endorsement target is Swift, 34, the pop sensation and NFL enthusiast who can touch millions of followers with an Instagram post or a mid-concert aside. She endorsed Mr. Biden in 2020, and last year, a single Instagram post of hers led her to 35,000 new voter registrations. Ms. Swift’s fundraising appeals could be worth millions of dollars to Mr. Biden.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a top Biden surrogate, practically begged Swift to become more involved in Biden’s campaign when spoke to journalists after a Republican primary debate in September.

“Taylor Swift is tall and unique,” he said. “I think what she was able to accomplish just by getting young people to consider that they have a voice and that they should have a choice in the next election is profoundly powerful.”

The talk around Ms Swift and the potential to reach his 279 million followers on Instagram It reached such intensity that Biden’s team urged job applicants on social media not to describe their Taylor Swift strategy; the campaign already had enough suggestions. An idea that has been circulated, somewhat in jest: having the president stop at Eras of Ms. Swift Tour.

Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a key Biden ally, said Democrats needed to push for the president to make an affirmative case, reminding voters that there will be tangible changes in their lives: a cap on health care costs. insulin, a road or bridge repaired for the first time. – could be linked to the administration’s achievements.

In the 2020 campaign, Clyburn said, “people were voting against Triumph. “Our job this time is to convince people to vote for Biden.”

“We just can’t rely on this anti-Trump thing because Trump supporters are going to become big, because they are emotionally attached to Trump,” he continued. “We have to emotionally connect our voters to Biden.”

And Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat running for Senate, said candidates must show they understand voters’ pocketbook anxiety.

“The lesson we learned in the last seven years in Michigan after Trump’s victory was that an angry Democrat is fine; a Democrat with a plan is powerful,” Slotkin said. “You need to understand the mood of the people on the ground.”

Other Biden supporters argue that voters want to hear not only about his record but also what he would do if re-elected.

Rep. Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire, urged the campaign to present a “future vision” for how Biden would address concerns about housing affordability, child care costs and immigration.

“You can’t just try to relitigate the past. It can’t just be talking about bills we pass,” she said. “It has to be about responding to the immediate concerns that people have in their daily lives.”

To help calm those Democratic anxieties, Biden sent Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon, two top White House advisers, to Wilmington, Delaware, to devote their full attention to the campaign. For months, donors and other allies had expressed frustration with an arrangement in which top decision-makers in Biden’s campaign were still in their roles in the White House, while top officials in Wilmington had to fulfill orders.

The campaign has also responded to complaints about its slow pace of hiring by bringing on a slew of new staff members. It now has more than 100 staff members, with teams on the ground in six battleground states and South Carolina, where the first recognized Democratic primary will be held on Saturday.

However, many new employees have jobs more or less similar to those they did in their state holidays.

In Wisconsin, the six new Biden campaign staffers all come from the state’s Democratic Party and still work in the same offices and conference rooms. The spokesman for a super PAC behind the effort to put Biden’s name on Democratic primary ballots in New Hampshire will be Biden’s campaign manager in the state.

Ms. O’Malley Dillon, who ran Biden’s 2020 campaign, is widely seen as a stabilizing force and will arrive in Wilmington with decision-making authority that campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez did not have.

Kirk Wagar, a Democratic donor who served as ambassador to Singapore during the Obama administration, said: “Having 100 percent of a mind like Jen O’Malley’s thinking about the campaign can’t be anything but a great thing.”

Shane Goldmacher contributed reports.

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