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Opinion | Biden’s campaign team tries to put the president’s nightmare debate behind them
Opinion | Biden’s campaign team tries to put the president’s nightmare debate behind them

WILMINGTON, Delaware – Top strategists at President Biden’s re-election headquarters here believe there is only one way to put the nightmare of his debate performance behind him.

Looking ahead, “it has to be about Trump,” deputy campaign manager Rob Flaherty told me when I visited the organization, which is housed in a modern downtown office tower with “Dark Brandon” paintings adorning the walls.

Admittedly, any theory about how the 81-year-old president could achieve a victory over his predecessor Donald Trump this fall is based on some questionable assumptions.

The most important question is whether Biden can show he is sharp and forceful enough to dispel doubts about whether he is fit for another four years in office. One test will come Thursday night, when the president holds one of his rare solo news conferences. He cannot afford a shaky performance.

Although Biden has steadfastly insisted that he will not resign, elected officials, major donors and other influential figures in his shaken party are deeply divided over whether their chances would be better if they were to wait for a new There is great fear that Biden could not only suffer a defeat and thus put Trump back in the Oval Office, but also take with him the Democrats’ Senate majority and their hopes of retaking the House of Representatives.

Public opinion polls have shown little movement in this race since the June 27 debate, perhaps indicating how entrenched and immovable the positions of Democrats and Republicans are.

The Biden campaign’s internal numbers, I’m told, show that there has been some decline since the debate, particularly among what Biden’s strategists call “engagement targets,” which include younger, non-white and female voters who sided with Biden in 2020 but were less enthusiastic this time. The decline in their support since the debate is within the margin of error, officials say, and there are no signs yet that they are turning toward Trump.

Furthermore, these voters are less likely to have actually followed the entire debate than engaged and attentive partisans, meaning their perceptions of events are based largely on news reports and snippets from social media.

But there is a silver lining for Biden – or, given the fragility of the current situation, it would be more accurate to say a shadow. The debate has put many of the president’s grassroots supporters on high alert. The campaign says $38 million flowed into its coffers between the Thursday night of the debate and the following Sunday, and that legions of new volunteers are coming forward.

This shows that his most ardent supporters believe Biden deserves a Opportunity to demonstrate that what Americans saw on the debate stage in Atlanta was an aberration.

What the campaign needs to do now is to shift the focus, which has been almost exclusively on its candidate, to other things. “This election is about Trump. It’s our job to make that clear,” said a senior adviser.

That’s why you’ve heard them talking a lot lately about Project 2025, an initiative by right-wing Trump allies and the conservative Heritage Foundation that’s developing a policy blueprint for the next Republican president.

Major media outlets like the Washington Post have been reporting on the radical proposals, such as mass military deportations, sharp restrictions on abortion, and expanding White House influence over the Justice Department, since last year. But the political resonance of Project 2025, which gives substance to Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric, only became apparent to the Biden campaign team a few months ago, when it noticed a sharp rise in conversations about Project 2025 among liberal political influencers on TikTok.

It didn’t hurt that even the name “Project 2025” carries a hint of dark, conspiratorial planning. The Democratic National Committee has begun putting up billboards about the project, and Biden campaign officials plan to make it the focus of advertising they plan to run during the Republican National Convention next week.

The fact that the attacks are having an effect is shown by Trump’s distancing himself from the proposals for his next term in office. On his platform Truth Social, he wrote that he knew “nothing about Project 2025” and had “no idea who is behind it.”

What hasn’t changed since the debate, Biden campaign officials insist, is that this will be a close election. And they believe they’ve built an organization better equipped to handle an outcome that could be decided by fewer than 100,000 voters in seven states. They have a far larger presence on the ground than Trump, with 1,200 staffers in swing states, and they’re investing heavily in voter registration. They’re also making sure their supporters not only vote, but that their ballots are counted.

In their meme-filled Biden’s campaign team has its headquarters 100 miles from the unrest in Washington and is focusing on what it can still control. Whether Americans can still trust their candidate is not in their hands.

By Everly