Trump versus Biden

Published September 14, 2023

By Carter Wrenn

Biden’s itching to run against Trump – he’s the Republican Biden’s most likely to beat. And it looks like Biden may get what he wants – in a poll last week Trump had 52% of the vote, a big lead, in the Republican primary.

But there’re warning signs (for Trump): A block of his voters said they either 1) don’t believe the lawsuits against him are due to Biden using the Justice Department as a political ‘weapon,’ or said that 2) they want to wait and see the trials before they decide whether the lawsuits are political.

Trump could lose those voters. Which leaves his opponents facing a hard choice.

Back during the Civil War, Ulysses Grant set out to take Vicksburg and, at the same time, he tried to protect his supply line – that was a logical traditional military strategy. It failed. So Grant did something that was out of the ordinary – he marched off his supply line. And took Vicksburg.

In political campaigns candidates face choices between doing what’s right when it’s risky – or sitting silent and ducking. That’s where Trump’s opponents are now. They need to bluntly tell Trump voters about Trump’s mistakes. That’s risky. But straight talk is what it takes to convince voters to change their minds.

Back in 1984, when Jesse Helms ran for reelection, he trailed Governor Jim Hunt by 25 points. We pummeled Hunt on issues – a logical sound traditional political strategy. That failed. Then one day our pollster, Arthur Finkelstein, dropped a poll on my desk, looked from me to Tom Ellis, said, This campaign isn’t about issues it’s about character. In those days most campaigns hinged on issues. But this one didn’t. We marched off the supply line. And it worked.

Trump opponents running as ‘Trump-lite’ won’t stop Trump. And talking to voters bluntly about Trump’s mistakes is risky. But it does give voters a reason to change their minds.