31 May.

Al Hunt: Biden’s chance: scare voters about Trump, a felon; stress abortion rights

By Al Hunt, originally posted on Politics War Room Substack

Joe Biden cannot win this election. But he still has a chance to beat Donald Trump.

A clear majority of voters don’t want another four years of a President they believe is too old. A well run, carefully selective and relentlessly negative campaign might convince enough of these voters the alternative is worse.

With the unanimous and relatively quick verdict of a Manhattan jury, Trump is a convicted felon. Most Republican office holders predictably assailed the verdict and it may only intensify support from the MAGA base.  As it sinks in that the Republican presidential candidate is a felon, it likely will give pause to some soft or undecided voters.

The Biden team, however, still has a lot of work to do.


Tamp down the talk about the good economy; the “Are you better off than four years ago?” is a non-starter.  Most Americans are, but with the cost of living, they don’t believe it.

Talking about a vision for the second term won’t work. The electorate doesn’t associate an 80-something-year-old with vision.

The Biden campaign complains about the influential New York Times’ focus on age. Recently I’ve talked to scores of voters, a majority Democrats or Independents. Most don’t read the Times. Invariably they bring up the age issue. They see the President on television.

For starters,

Democrats need to continue to refresh voters on the dark Trump years: impeachments, the January 6 violence, corruption, and, according to his own advisers, hundreds of thousands of lives unnecessarily lost during Covid due to Trump’s malpractice. The felony conviction facilitates that task.

Looking ahead, many critics want to emphasize the threat to democracy under Trump.  It is very real. But I worry many swing voters rationalize we got through four years of a President Trump and still have our democratic rights.

There will be Republicans endorsing Biden;  I doubt that will cut much either.  What may is a strong message from Trump’s own national security advisers — Defense chiefs Jim Mattis and Mark Esper, national security advisers John Bolton and H.R. McMaster and Chief of Staff John Kelly — not only to oppose the Republican nominee but to point out how he threatens America’s national security.

Some like Gen. Mattis say ex-Marine Generals shouldn’t  get involved in politics. There is no greater Marine hero than David Shoup, Medal of Honor recipient, commandant of the Corps. The retired Marine General vigorously opposed the Vietnam War as inimical to American interests. Another Trump Presidency, as I’m told you believe, Gen. Mattis, is a far graver danger.

The only foreign policy issue that bedevils the President is Gaza where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing him for a sucker. He should have broken months ago, certainly not with Israel but with its leader. He needs to stop equivocating and drawing red lines which Bibi ignores.

It’s a few big domestic issues that really resonate. There have to be priorities which means important issues like climate change, education or housing are second tier; you can’t emphasize everything.

At the top of what can be emphasized and understood is the profound choice on abortion.  Trump can keep equivocating, but the truth, which voters get, is access to abortion, especially the pill, will be much harder under a Trump Administration. Biden and surrogates need to drive that home every day that the other side wants to take away rights.

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, ending protections for abortions, this has been a winning issue everywhere for Democrats, with larger than expected turnouts.  It likely will be on a number of November ballots, including swing states Arizona and Nevada. It also is a pathway to criticizing the partisan Supreme Court.

Biden should hit hard on economic equity with specificity, pledging to double the $7.25 minimum wage which hasn’t been raised in fifteen years and to let the multi-trillion dollar Trump tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

Republicans have opposed raising the minimum wage and passionately support the  tax cuts for the rich. It follows, Biden can credibly charge, to cut the deficit, as they insist, they will go after Social Security and Medicare.

Underrated, as a political matter, is health care. Trump vows to end the Affordable Health Care Act and has no clue how to replace it. The  Biden Administration’s cap on some expensive drug prices would be deep sixed by Republicans. This is simple: under Trump, health insurance premiums and drug prices will soar.

Immigration is a problem and Biden should closely embrace the tough bipartisan border bill that Trump made congressional Republicans reject. The goal is to minimize losses.

Trump will run a vicious campaign with reckless charges and no regard for truth. To win, Biden can’t get distracted by his opponent’s demagoguery and has to selectively and forcefully attack Trump’s vulnerabilities. That has the added virtue of being true.

The President and his team, no doubt, would like to run on his accomplishments. If he does, his great grandchildren one day will read about all that was achieved by this one term President.