Biden gets Trump card in early running

Editorial | Mary Ma 16 May 2019

Check out this offensive tweet from US President Donald Trump: "China is DREAMING that Sleepy Joe Biden, or any of the others, gets elected in 2020."

As Trump escalated his trade war by boosting tariffs on US$200 billion (HK$1.56 trillion) worth of Chinese products from 10 percent to 25 percent, while ordering planning for tariffs on the rest of Chinese goods in the near future, the White House master suddenly switched to attacking the former vice-president.

The tweet unleashed at the start of the week was interesting, although Trump has a nasty habit of firing off tweets to attach dismissive nicknames to his political opponents. It basically sums up the electoral situation at this early stage.

Trump has arrived at the view that it's going to be a match next year between him and Biden, who served as vice-president during the Barack Obama regime.

Since Biden announced his 2020 presidential campaign about three weeks ago, he has emerged as the most popular among all Democratic candidates.

And worse still for the commander in chief, polling results showed he would be defeated fairly readily by Biden if the election was held today.

For example, in Arizona, where the last time a Republican candidate lost to a Democrat was back in 1996, Trump is lagging behind Biden 44 percent to 49 percent. In February, both were tied at 46.

When Trump won the presidency in 2016, he beat former secretary of state Hillary Clinton by 3.5 points.

Trump is trailing Biden nationwide too. Another poll revealed an even wider margin if the vote was conducted across the country now, with Biden leading him by 42 to 34 percent.

That's certainly bad news for an incumbent desperate to stay in the White House after 2020. Obviously, Trump needs to win the trade war with China to persuade Americans to re-elect him.

Beijing must have been tracking the polls closely, and are digging in to wait for the Trump effect to peter out. To an extent, that particular tweet by Trump has some truth in it - Beijing is betting Trump will go down to an inglorious defeat.

Although the real estate magnate knows the plot, he could be committing a foolish blunder by taking Biden on so early.

The Democratic camp is crowded with candidates running for the primary, including senators Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and so on. By singling out Biden for concentrated attacks, Trump is indeed doing the former No 2 an immense favor, as it helps elevate Biden's status above all competitors, insulating him from criticism by his own peers.

Trump is probably repeating his 2016 election strategy, in which he attacked Clinton early and often to wear her out. The strategy, alongside e-mail leaks by WikiLeaks and false information spread by clandestine operations backed by Moscow, proved fatal to Clinton's bid.

But would Trump be too confident to expect similar results after Americans - including Wall Street investors and some farmers in so-called Red states - have been alarmed by an escalation in the trade war that he insists would force factories to move out of the mainland?

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