POLITICS

Biden Eyes GOP Supporters While Trump Focuses On His Base

Jul 20, 2020, 7:41 AM | Updated: 7:45 am
FILE: U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)...
FILE: U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In the four months since Joe Biden effectively won the Democratic presidential nomination, he has focused on consolidating the party’s divergent and often warring factions. As the closing stretch of the campaign nears, that effort will expand to include Republicans disaffected with President Donald Trump.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican and frequent Trump critic, has been approached and is expected to speak at the Democratic National Convention on Biden’s behalf next month, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans who insisted on anonymity to discuss strategy. Kasich is among a handful of high-profile Republicans likely to become more active in supporting Biden in the fall.

Trump, meanwhile, is doing virtually nothing to expand his appeal beyond his most loyal supporters. Some GOP operatives believe the suburbs are lost while a contingent of high-profile Republicans are openly questioning the president’s reelection message. In an acknowledgment of the mounting challenges, Trump named a new campaign manager last week.

With about 100 days until Election Day, there’s time for sudden developments that could shift the trajectory of the campaign. The Friday announcement that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s cancer has returned was a reminder of the potential volatility ahead. In 2016 Trump effectively used the prospect of Supreme Court appointments to win over conservatives who otherwise found him distasteful.

And in crucial battleground states such as Florida, some Democrats are concerned that Biden’s current standing could be a high-water mark. Some polls suggest Biden’s strength comes more from voters’ displeasure with Trump than excitement over Biden, whose regular gaffes, long Washington record and recent attempts to appease progressives leave him in a tougher spot than some Democrats would like to believe.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat elected to statewide office there, praised Biden’s message and said he could appeal to rural and middle-class voters. But she says “it’s way too early” to predict a victory.

“As we get closer, polls are going to get tighter,” Fried said.

That happened in 2016 when Trump narrowly won the election after trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls for months. The Democrats’ reluctance to enjoy the current moment reflects the sting of that loss, Biden’s nagging vulnerabilities and Trump’s mountain of campaign cash.

Trump’s campaign has reserved $146 million in television advertising this fall led by a $36.3 million investment in Florida alone, according to data compiled by Advertising Analytics. That’s more than double the next closest state, Ohio, where Trump has reserved $18.4 million. Biden, so far, hasn’t reserved any fall advertising, although he’s amassed a fortune in recent months that will allow him to compete, even if he can’t match Trump dollar for dollar.

Trump this fall plans to spend big trying to flip at least three states Democrats carried in 2016, according to the advertising reserves, which show he’s investing $14 million in Minnesota, $6.7 million in New Hampshire and $6.1 million in Nevada.

While the specific ads have yet to be finalized, Trump’s team signaled it was preparing to ramp up attacks on Biden’s record and mental competence designed to “redefine” the lifelong politician and scare away tentative supporters. Underlying the strategy is a risky assumption that the coronavirus and related economic devastation will improve before voting begins.

“A lot of people know Joe Biden. They don’t know about Joe Biden’s record. Right now, he is this blank canvas,” said Nick Trainer, the Trump campaign’s director of delegates and party organization. “As they get more and more information about what Joe Biden’s done and what he’ll do, I’m more and more confident.”

With early voting set to begin in several states in just two months, however, there are no signs yet that the strategy is helping Trump expand his support.

Republicans working on congressional races across several battleground states believe the nation’s suburbs, where higher-educated white voters have traditionally favored the GOP, are almost completely lost for Trump. These voters, they warn, are more intensely opposed to Trump’s reelection than they were during the 2018 midterm elections, when a suburban backlash allowed Democrats to seize the House majority.

The suburban shift is emblematic of Biden’s potential to expand the Democratic coalition to include more women, seniors and moderate Republicans, who may have reluctantly voted for Trump or a third-party candidate in 2016 but may vote for a Democrat in 2020 after watching Trump struggle to govern.

Biden’s team would not confirm specific discussions with Kasich, but deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield acknowledged the campaign has begun working with Republicans, just as it has worked with progressives in recent months. At the least, she said GOP backers could help mute Trump’s efforts to paint Biden as a tool of the left.

“In terms of Republican supporters, I think it speaks to a career of being able to work across the aisle, of being able to actually get things done,” Bedingfield said. “We welcome the support of anybody who’d rather see Joe Biden be president than Donald Trump.”

Trump’s Republican allies are finding it harder to defend his inconsistent leadership as the coronavirus explodes across the country. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Trump defended his statement from earlier in the month that coronavirus would eventually “sort of just disappear.”

“I’ll be right eventually,” the president said.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Trump supporter, praised the president’s recent decision to wear a face mask for the first time in public. He said Trump and his allies could help stop the spread of the virus and speed up the economic recovery if they embraced mask usage.

But Walker said he has no clear sense of Trump’s campaign message or political strategy. He encouraged Trump’s team to focus on Biden’s history of “saying or doing anything to get elected” instead of some of the attacks against his mental competence or links to his party’s left wing.

“They’ve got to be focused and disciplined — not go out on 100 different tangents,” Walker said in an interview.

Acknowledging concerns about his campaign, Trump named veteran GOP operative Bill Stepien as his new campaign manager. But the change is not expected to lead to major strategic shifts given that Stepien was already guiding much of the political operation and Trump himself ultimately drives the campaign.

Trump’s team believes the president will eventually benefit when the explosion of coronavirus infections begins to subside and the economy recovers.

So far, the numbers are moving in the opposite direction. The nation continues to break new records of daily infections and several states have scaled back reopening plans.

“It’s really a perfect storm coming. It’s like Trump’s on a sinking ship,” said former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a prominent Biden ally.

“Everybody everyday is now dealing with coronavirus in their personal lives,” he said in an interview. “Yeah, they’re going to blame Trump. They should. And there’s nothing he can do about it.”

Still, McAuliffe warned: “If any party can screw this up, it’s the Democratic Party.”

___

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Politics

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield is expected to depart her role in the coming w...
MJ Lee, Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield leaving her role

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield will depart her role in the coming weeks, chief of staff Ron Klain told CNN on Wednesday.
15 hours ago
An Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's attempts to overtu...
Sara Murray and Jason Morris, CNN

Graham, Giuliani, Eastman and other Trump advisers subpoenaed in Georgia election probe

An Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia has subpoenaed a handful of key Trump allies, including his former attorney and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham
2 days ago
Representative Tricia Derges (Credit: Missouri House of Representatives)...
Associated Press

Missouri lawmaker resigns from House after fraud conviction for selling Covid treatments

A Missouri GOP legislator has resigned after being convicted of falsely claiming she was giving patients stem cell treatments for COVID-19.
4 days ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 08: A protestor holds a 'Let's Go Brandon!' sign in Grand Park a...
STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer

Boy helps Brown put new spin on ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ chant

Brandon Brown wanted a way to change the narrative behind the “Let’s go, Brandon” message after his first career NASCAR victory fostered an insulting chant against President Joe Biden.
4 days ago
Supporters against abortion rights at the Utah Capitol....
Michael Houck

Hundreds of Utahns gathered at Utah capitol, celebrating the end of Roe v Wade

Hundreds of Utahns gathered to celebrate the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, asking those supporters to show compassion to the opposition.
5 days ago
CHEVY CHASE, MD - JUNE 08: Law enforcement officers stand guard as protesters march past Supreme Co...
Associated Press

High court marshal seeks enforcement of anti-picketing laws

The marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court has asked officials to step up enforcement to prohibit picketing outside the homes of the justices.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah Voters 50+ Support Increased Access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
Biden Eyes GOP Supporters While Trump Focuses On His Base