James Lynch: Trump is giving Biden a gift – Why is the Scranton street fighter shying away?

At Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign kickoff speech in May, he focused on President Trump as his opponent, repeating his name more than a dozen times while never mentioning his other Democratic rivals.

Mike Allen and Alayna Treene of Axios said this about the kickoff, “Biden has gone all-in on the general election, positioning himself as the eventual Democratic nominee rather than scrapping with the 19 other wannabes.”

From Day One Biden wanted to pick a fight directly with Trump. That’s a smart strategy for a presumptive frontrunner.

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“I know there are times when only a bare-knuckle fight will do,” Biden exclaimed in May the kickoff to cheers. At one point, the crowd even erupted in chants screaming, “We want Trump!” and Biden repeated “Beat Trump” three times to emphasize this message.

The Team Biden strategy became clear: elevate Biden above the fray of the Democratic Primary and cast him as the “most electable” fighter who can go toe-to-toe with Trump.

Since May, Biden’s surrogates have continuously touted the former vice president as the “most electable” Democrat in the race. Trump is taking that claim seriously and he persists with allegations that Biden and his son, Hunter, are corrupt. Yet Biden isn’t stepping in the ring to fight.

At a recent SEIU event in Los Angeles, Biden angrily responded to a reporters’ question about the Ukraine-Biden imbroglio saying, “I’m not going to respond to it. I’m not going to talk about anything other than what the facts are. This is not about me, it’s not about my son. There’s not a shred of evidence that anything he’s done is wrong…[Trump’s] unhinged…I worry about what he’s going to do—not about me or my family—I’m worried about what he’ll do in next year of his presidency.” The press conference quickly devolved as Biden, finger-pointing and veins-bulging,—said “focus on this man [Trump].”

And this week, Biden joined every other major 2020 Democrat running for president in calling for Trump’s impeachment.

Still, that’s not enough for voters who desperately want a fighter, not a deflector, and it’s not enough to stop a political story that has many tentacles.

Democratic primary voters consistently say they want a candidate who can take on Trump. This is Biden’s chance to take it to Trump and be the fighter he claims to be.

At some point, Biden will have to return a punch at Trump and address this issue. The sooner he can, the better. It may make all the difference between winning the Democratic nomination (and possibly the presidency) or becoming another politician vanquished by Trump’s tricks.

This fight, this “bare-knuckle” bout with Trump is what Biden set himself up for in May, so why he is backing away?

Trump is giving the scrappy Scranton streetfighter a gift—by attacking Biden, and only Biden—Trump is making this election a two-person race.

Biden’s wish is being served up to him on a golden platter. In an ill-advised-over-abundance-of-caution, Biden is missing his chance to crowd out his competition by showing voters he can go toe-to-toe with Trump.

While it’s not easy to blame a father for laying low as the president of the United States attacks his son—Biden is burying his head in the sand.

A deflection strategy may have worked against any other candidate, but Trump isn’t just throwing a grenade and walking away—he’s setting up an outpost in the Democrats’ territory and lobbing grenade after grenade at Biden—often burning himself in the process.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, like a pinpoint laser beam, is focusing the impeachment inquiry narrowly on Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president and every time the media discusses the inquiry, Joe and Hunter Biden are likely to be invoked.

The media, rightfully so, will cover this conflict with new headlines every day provided that the Democratic House moves on with an impeachment inquiry and the president continues to toss those grenades without caution.

For Biden’s Democratic primary rivals, this story continues to bruise their main opponents—Trump and Biden. They will let this story drag on as long as possible in hopes of taking the Democratic frontrunner out of contention for the nomination while badly damaging Trump before the general election.

This story is enough to send Biden’s supporters to other Democratic candidates who may quickly become “more electable” as Biden dithers.

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Trump’s strategy—to take Biden out—is working. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic contenders also continue to chip away at Biden. But this race is far from over and if Biden can successfully answer Trump’s attacks while throwing a strong counterpunch, he can crowd out the other Democrats and make this effectively a two-person race.

Democratic primary voters consistently say they want a candidate who can take on Trump. This is Biden’s chance to take it to Trump and be the fighter he claims to be.

No single tweet, no statement, and no TV ad from Team Biden is going to put this to bed. Trump’s thirst for a fight will only become more emboldened with Biden’s silence. Biden must directly confront Trump if he hopes to win the nomination. Doing so will put every other Democratic contender in their shadows while he and Trump begin the inevitable slog to election day 2020.

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Biden can make this a two-person race, the election he asked for during his kickoff speech in May, but he must shed his over-calculated caution, openly defend his name, his family, and his candidacy and repeatedly confront Trump head-on.

Until Biden opens Trump’s gift, the Trump fog machine will continue to choke him out and allow other candidates to vie for their own bare-knuckle fight with Trump.