For months, President Biden has seemed to delight in goading Donald J. Trump and his Republican allies, trying at every opportunity to make MAGA and ultra-MAGA shorthand for the entire party.
This week, Mr. Biden cheeky highlighted a video in which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia derisively takes stock of his first-term accomplishments and compares him — not positively — to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “I approve of this message,” the president commented on the video, which was viewed more than 43 million times in 24 hours.
Mr. Biden recently pulled off a victory lap when Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama promoted local spending in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Mr. Tuberville had voted against.
And his campaign shot Mr. Trump for failing to visit Wisconsin during his current presidential bid, accusing him of « failure to deliver on his promised American manufacturing boom. »
But when it comes to the topic dominating this week’s presidential race, Mr. Biden and his key allies are treating Mr. Trump’s legal troubles like Voldemort, avoiding, at all costs, any mention of the allegations that must not be named. .
This moment comes after weeks of polls, both public and private, suggesting that Mr. Trump, who is comfortably the favorite in the Republican primary race, would be a weaker general election opponent next year than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or other GOP candidates.
The White House and the Biden campaign didn’t send explicit instructions to surrogates and supporters telling them to stay away from Trump’s legal troubles, but many of those on Team Biden got the message loud and clear: Don’t talk about the Trump allegations.
« The American people want the judicial process to go without interference from politicians, » said Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a member of the Biden campaign’s National Advisory Committee. « President Biden gets his pulse on the feelings of the American public by speaking about what he matters to them. »
Mr. Biden has said he will not comment on the investigation and allegations against Mr. Trump — a reflection of his clear desire not to be seen as an intruder on the Justice Department’s independence, as well as the political imperative to deflect the relentless evidence of the Republicans – gratuitous accusations of being the hidden hand behind the allegations.
The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have repeatedly refused to comment or answer questions about Trump’s allegations. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has dodged numerous questions about Trump’s legal travails in recent weeks.
« I just won’t respond to any hypothetical that’s currently, you know, out there in the world, » Ms. Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday after Mr. Trump revealed he received a so-called disposition letter from federal investigators, a sign he may soon be indicted in the investigation into the events culminating in the Capitol revolt. « I just won’t comment from here. »
The Biden world’s approach to Trump’s allegations echoes how Democrats handled Trump, then president, during the 2018 midterm elections.
Scores of resistance-fueled Democrats ran for and won House seats by focusing on health care policy without putting Trump at the center of their campaigns. They didn’t have to talk about Trump then, it was thought, because the voters had already made up their minds about him.
“He’s ubiquitous, and voters who are motivated to vote against him and his party already know what they need to know,” said Meredith Kelly, a strategist who worked for the House Democrats’ electoral arm in 2018. This has allowed congressional candidates to talk about real kitchen table issues impacting families and continues to do so in this cycle as it looms over the battlefield in 2024.
There’s also little doubt that polls show Mr. Biden is stronger against Mr. Trump than Mr. DeSantis or others, giving the president little incentive to do anything to damage Mr. Trump’s standing among Republican primary voters .
A Michigan survey conducted last week by a Republican-leaning polling firm found Biden up one percentage point on Trump, but down two percentage points on DeSantis. The same firm Nevada survey showed Mr. Biden leading by four against Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis by two. And in Wisconsin, a survey last month from Marquette University Law School it found Mr. Biden with a nine-point lead over Mr. Trump but a two-point lead over Mr. DeSantis.
According to Marquette pollster Charles Franklin, both Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis have the support of hard-core Republicans in a matchup against Mr. Biden, but among Republican-leaning independents, Mr. Trump’s support wanes as Mr. DeSantis’s no .
The public poll is in line with the White House poll of battlefield states.
One person who is more than happy to amplify discussions of the investigation and allegations is Trump himself. He was the former president, of course, who revealed that he received the letter of destination.
« Corrupt Joe Biden weaponized the Justice Department to go after his main political opponent, President Trump, who is the overwhelming favorite to take back the White House, » said Steven Cheung, Trump’s campaign spokesman. « Biden wants to meddle in the election because he knows he has no chance against President Trump. »
Ms. Greene’s Biden campaign video served to alter and elevate one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest far-right supporters and further Mr. Biden’s record without getting into the lawsuits against Mr. Trump. Polls conducted for the White House last year found that Ms. Greene was known and loathed by most voters, and that independent voters associated her with Trump’s MAGA movement.
Mr. Biden’s campaign referred to her on Wednesday as a spokesperson for the « unintentional campaign. »
« Joe Biden has had the largest public investment in social infrastructure and environmental programs that is actually completing what FDR started, what LBJ has expanded, and what Joe Biden is attempting to complete, » Ms. Greene said at the Turning conference. Point Action over the weekend, in the clipped video from the Biden campaign.
The result is a sharp 35 second videodistributed on Biden’s Twitter feed with the introduction « I approve of this message ».
The clip was similar to the moment last month when Mr. Biden highlighted the unusual and unexpected support of another Trump-focused Republican, Senator Tuberville, who praised Alabama’s spending on the infrastructure bill, which Mr. Biden has signed and the senator had voted against.