Will the Trump campaign’s focus on Joe Biden’s mental collapse backfire on them? It’s an interesting question, especially in light of a recent spate of media figures purporting that it will. I think it’s worth exploring, because there are some factors to take note of on both sides of the argument.
The issue was brought to my mind this morning after I noticed a retweet by National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru in which he agrees with Vox’s Matthew Yglesias that such an approach will end up helping Biden.
— Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) June 30, 2020
My first thought is why not do both? Regardless, are they correct? Will pointing out that Biden’s mind continually melts into a puddle of goo backfire on Trump and other Republicans? I have my doubts, though I think there is some merit to the idea.
Republicans should worry that Biden manages to drink enough five hour energy shots to make it through the debates without forgetting what state he’s in. We saw something similar happen earlier in the primary, where Biden was routinely saying crazy stuff and forgetting what he was saying while on the campaign trail. But when he got into his one on one debate with Bernie, he made it through relatively unscathed. One should be weary that Biden could make it through twos hours of friendly moderators doing their best to protect him.
The idea that the bar will be set so low that Biden just doesn’t have to drool on camera to come out the winner is probably not completely crazy.
Yet, I don’t think it matters. Why? Because no matter what Trump or Republicans say, the bar is going to be dropped on the floor going into the debates anyway. Biden could quite literally spend the entire time slurring his words and talking about “Corn Pop” and the media would still praise him as if he just won the World Series. CNN will have their nine person panels extolling his virtue and charisma even if Biden falls on his face.
I’m left thinking that the idea that the Trump campaign should cease fire on Biden’s clear signs of dementia is simply concern trolling, mostly by those who want to see Trump lose anyway. There’s nothing to gain by doing that. There’s no doubt in my mind that the focus on Hillary’s health in 2016 was a net positive for Republicans. Why should Trump and Republicans give up that pressure point before it’s even been really tried?
Right now, Biden isn’t in the spotlight, and when he does leave the basement, he’s reading notes and still fumbling all over the place. Eventually, he will have to face the public in more traditional settings with millions watching.
In the end, the problem with the theory that Trump’s attacks will backfire is that it assumes Biden doesn’t actually have issues that will surface as he appears in public, unscripted more. But he does have issues, and when he starts talking about “the thing” or losing his train of thought continuously at a debate, it’ll be more apparent precisely because Trump has pressed the issue.
Yglesias and his cohorts in the media knows this, and they are worried their guy won’t perform when the lights come on.