Trump 2020 campaign will attack Biden's Senate record, not his time as Obama's VP

President Trump’s 2020 campaign will seize on Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden’s mixed Senate record rather than his eight years as Barack Obama’s right-hand man.

The re-election campaign has been figuring out how – if Biden snatches the Democratic Party’s nomination – to respond to Biden’s candidacy that enjoys some protection among some voters due to nostalgia for the Obama years.

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But Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell, who works closely with the White House, told the Washington Times that the Trump campaign will attack Biden’s six-term record as a U.S. senator from Delaware.

“He’s got an Obama card he can play, but the problem is the 36 years of baggage before Obama. That’s the ticket in terms of getting him,” the strategist said.

“He’s got an Obama card he can play, but the problem is the 36 years of baggage before Obama. That’s the ticket in terms of getting him.”

— Ford O’Connell, GOP strategist

Blueprint for beating Biden?

The heated exchange during a debate last month between Sen. Kamala Harris and Biden over the issue of federally mandated busing, a measure Biden opposed it during his Senate years -- which also meant he had found a common cause with segregationist Democrats -- may be a blueprint how to damage Biden’s credibility in the eyes of the electorate.

Harris surged among voters after her stellar debate performance, in which she challenged Biden to apologize for opposing federally mandated busing as part of the broader desegregation effort.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day — and that little girl was me,” she said. “So, I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously.”

Biden didn’t offer an apology and instead went on defense and damage control, insisting he went into politics because of civil rights.

Among other issues that could damage Biden is his support for the 1994 crime bill that greatly increased incarceration of African-Americans and is now widely agreed as having had a detrimental effect on the communities.

Biden was one of the leading proponents of the bill while in the Senate and the issue plays well with Trump’s legislative victories as his administration passed the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform that ramped up rehabilitation efforts.

Trump has already attacked Biden over the issue multiple times, most recently just before the Democratic debate.

“Ever since the passage of the Super Predator Crime Bill, pushed hard by @JoeBiden, together with Bill and Crooked Hillary Clinton, which inflicted great pain on many, but especially the African American Community, Democrats have tried and failed to pass Criminal Justice Reform,” Trump said.

In May, Trump said nobody associated with the 1994 bill could get elected and urged Biden to apologize for his involvement.

“Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!

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“Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing. That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!”

Another issue that will likely draw scrutiny is Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over 30 years ago.

Biden’s campaign is still reeling from a scathing op-ed penned by Hill on the onset of his 2020 candidacy, saying that the movement against sexual misconduct might have begun sooner had he done a better job of handling her claims of sexual harassment against Thomas.

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“If the Senate Judiciary Committee, led then by Mr. Biden, had done its job and held a hearing that showed that its members understood the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence, the cultural shift we saw in 2017 after #MeToo might have began [sic] in 1991 — with the support of the government,” Hill, who is now a professor at Brandeis University, wrote.

Other Dems gaining momentum

Even though Biden has taken a hit recently, including a small decline in his poll numbers, while other candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Mayor Pete Buttigieg are gaining momentum behind their campaigns, the campaign is working under the assumption that Biden will win the nomination.

“The opposition research is focused on Biden. And we hope we get Biden because when it comes to who’s got a better record, Trump has a significantly better record than Biden,” a Trump campaign official told the newspaper.

"When it comes to who’s got a better record, Trump has a significantly better record than Biden."

— Trump campaign official

Another campaign staffer told the Times that Biden’s close association with Obama is his biggest strength as people might perceive his candidacy as a “return to normalcy.”

But Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the campaign, struck a rather different tone. He said the campaign isn’t totally preoccupied with neutralizing Biden -- as Biden's record will likely do that by itself.

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“Joe Biden is an existential threat to Joe Biden. His poor performance on the campaign trail and lame defense of his four decades in public office have already caused him problems,” Murtaugh said.

"Joe Biden is an existential threat to Joe Biden."

— Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director

“He was a bad candidate the first two times he ran for president, and there’s no reason to expect that he’s improved any. We are a year away from knowing who our opponent will be, and we are unconvinced that Joe Biden will be the nominee.”