Trump is planning for a landslide win — so long as Biden stays in the race

Trump is planning for a landslide win — so long as Biden stays in the race

Tim Alberta writes:

The outcome of the presidential campaign, Republicans believed, was a fait accompli. “Donald Trump was well on his way to a 320-electoral-vote win,” Chris LaCivita told me this past Sunday as Democrats questioned, ever more frantically, whether President Joe Biden should remain the party’s nominee in November. “That’s pre-debate.”

LaCivita paused to repeat himself: “Pre-debate.”

This could be interpreted as trash talk coming from a cocky campaign: If you thought Biden was in trouble before he bombed at the June 27 debate, imagine the trouble he’s in now. But I heard something different in LaCivita’s voice.

One of the two principals tasked with returning Trump to the White House, LaCivita had long conceived of the 2024 race as a contest that would be “extraordinarily visual”—namely, a contrast of strength versus weakness. Trump, whatever his countless liabilities as a candidate, would be cast as the dauntless and forceful alpha, while Biden would be painted as the pitiable old heel, less a bad guy than the butt of a very bad joke, America’s lovable but lethargic uncle who needed, at long last, to be put to bed.

As the likelihood of a Trump-versus-Biden rematch set in, the public responded to the two candidates precisely as LaCivita and his campaign co-manager, Susie Wiles, had hoped. The percentage of voters who felt that Biden, at 81, was too old for another term rose throughout 2023, even as the electorate’s concerns about Trump’s age, 78, remained relatively static. By the end of the primaries, the public’s attitude toward the two nominees had begun to harden: One was a liar, a scoundrel, and a crook—but the other one, the old one, was unfit to be president.

In the months that followed, Trump and his campaign would seize on Biden’s every stumble, his every blank stare to reinforce that observation, seeking to portray the incumbent as “stuttering, stammering, walking around, feeling his way like a blind man,” as LaCivita put it to me. That was the plan. And it worked. Watching Biden’s slide in the polls, and sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars for an advertising blitz that would punctuate the president’s visible decrepitude, Trump’s team entered the summer believing that a landslide awaited in the fall.

Only one thing could disrupt that plan: a change of candidates atop the Democratic ticket. [Continue reading…]

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