On Friday morning, the president explained that his various attempts to coerce foreign governments into launching baseless investigations into Joe Biden had “NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens” (ostensibly, they were actually about ethics in Ukrainian cronyism).
Also on Friday, Donald Trump’s reelection campaign revealed that it will air $1 million worth of Ukraine-themed, anti-Biden ads in early primary states.
Team Trump had previously announced an $8 million national television blitz promoting the (unsubstantiated) claim that Joe Biden leveraged the powers of the vice-presidency to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired for investigating the company that employed his son. But it wasn’t clear until Friday that roughly $1 million of that ad buy would be concentrated in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada, in a naked attempt to prevent Biden from securing the Democratic nomination.
“Voters should know about the self-dealing, influence-peddling Bidens as the campaign season progresses,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump 2020 spokesman, told Politico Friday.
The Biden campaign had already made a $6 million ad buy in those same states with the aim of countering Trump’s Ukraine allegations. But if this exchange of fire turns into ad war of attrition, the former vice-president could be in trouble: In the third quarter of this year, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee collectively raised $125 million; Biden, meanwhile, raised a mere $15 million (which was considerably less than the socialist candidate and mayor of South Bend had each mustered).
None of this seems ideal for a candidate who was already losing ground to Elizabeth Warren before his son’s legal (but shady) employment on the board of a Ukrainian gas company became a fixture in the headlines. Polls suggest that Democratic primary voters prize “electability” in their nominee above all else. And the former vice-president’s strong showing in surveys of a hypothetical Trump-Biden election had helped to give his candidacy an aura of safety. But Biden’s egregious ineloquence at the first Democratic debates put a dent in that aura. Now, Trump’s ad campaign threatens to persuade Democrats in early states that nominating Biden would, in fact, mean reliving “but her emails” all over again.
On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine stronger evidence for the claim “Donald Trump is more afraid of facing Biden than any other candidate” than the Trump campaign taking out a multimillion-dollar ad buy aimed at sparing the president the hassle of facing Biden. Thus, it’s conceivable that Uncle Joe can use the president’s ad blitz (and monstrous abuse of power) to his own benefit.
“Donald Trump is interfering in our party’s primary election to destroy my campaign with proven lies. Are you going to let him win?” seems like a potent message (if Biden can deliver it without going off on a tangent about phonographs, or the time Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in the late 1970s, anyway).