2016 repeat? Trump revives Clinton's playbook to fight Biden

NEW YORK: Accusations of a deep-state conspiracy. Allegations of personal and family corruption. Painting an opponent as a Washington insider is not to be trusted

It's 2016 again. Or at least that's the hope of President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies are dusting off the playbook he helped defeat Hillary clinton , reliving it in recent days as they try to frame 2020 as a choice between a dishonest establishment politician and a strange politician who is the target of taking over the system. This time, however, the strange call is the acting President of the United States.

Eager to distract themselves from the pandemic that has killed more than 89,000 Americans and paralyzed the economy, Trump and his advisers have restarted their fog machine, amplified by conservative media as it was during the Russia investigation and impeachment investigation. . His latest target: the likely enemy of the president's general election, Joe Biden , in an urgent effort to increase its negative approval ratings less than six months before the election.

The strategy has already focused on making up allegations that Biden's son Hunter benefited from the vice presidency. Trump recently added Biden's ties to China, the country the White House now blames directly for the COVID-19 spread. And it went live last week when Trump took advantage of revelations that Biden was informed of the investigation of ties between Russia and Michael Flynn, a top Trump official, as evidence of a plot to undermine a presidency before it began.

Flynn's so-called unmasking, a common request by a government official for an intelligence agency to identify someone in contact with a foreigner under surveillance, became the centerpiece of Trump's unprecedented attacks on his predecessor. Trump said, without evidence, that Barack Obama, and, by extension, his vice president, had perpetrated the largest political scam, deception in the history of our country.

It was all Obama. It was all Biden. These people were corrupt, everything was corrupt, and we caught them, Trump said. People should go to jail for these things.

Biden's campaign fell back quickly, denying the irregularities and pointing to the routine practice of unmasking to help officials understand intelligence. They are painting Trump's reaction as a tired work that will have little effect on voters who have seen three years of a dispersed presidency now struggling to manage the pandemic.

We have a president who doesn't want to talk about the central issue in this campaign right now, said Mike Donilon, one of Biden's longest serving advisers. This is not new. Not that Trump has started attacking the vice president today or yesterday. He's been with him all year.

The president, Donilon said, resorts to a total effort to try to alienate people from what they are experiencing, describing a tactic he acknowledged has been successful in the past in terms of vomiting distractions and smoke screens. .

Trump's ability to distract, deflect, and dominate the headlines remains unmatched among politicians.

Four years ago, among his countless sides against Clinton, there were allegations that his use of a private email server as secretary of state endangered national security and accused him of using his government connections to enrich his family through the non-profit organization. Clinton Foundation . For many voters, the overtures worked, underscoring doubts about the integrity of a woman who had been in the public eye for decades and, along with her husband, the former president, had sometimes struggled to be seen as trustworthy.

Polls suggest an uphill climb for retaliation against Biden. Fewer voters dislike Biden than Clinton. And in 2016, voters who held negative views of both candidates overwhelmingly broke up for Trump; for now, they favor Biden.

There are other limitations inherent in Trump's effort to repeat his 2016 strategy.

The FBI investigated Clinton's use of the email server and, although he did not press charges, the consequences were politically damaging. But while the lens of young Biden's lucrative job in China and with a Ukrainian gas company has frustrated some Democrats, no one has accused father or son of doing anything wrong.

And it was Trump's push for Ukraine to find politically damaging filth in the Bidens that led to the removal of the President.

But history will not disappear. Trump's allies in the Senate will hold hearings on Biden's work abroad to portray the former vice president as a Washington veteran whose family benefited from his stature.

From his involvement in the unmasking of General Flynn to his son Hunter Biden repeatedly landing lucrative foreign business deals while his father was vice president, Joe Biden embodies the D.C. swamp, said Trump campaign spokeswoman Sarah Matthews.

Trump's attempts to make the routine sinister have also fueled his latest effort to undermine the report of special counsel Robert Mueller, who identified substantial contacts between Trump's associates and Russia, but did not charge him with a crime or allege a criminal conspiracy. between his campaign and the Kremlin Now the plan is to link the Democratic flag bearer to the probe.

Biden's allies show something close to fun as they analyze the attacks Trump has launched against the former vice president, including calling him Sleepy Joe.

The campaign responds with a twofold approach: Biden's detailed defenses on the merits, and then arguing that the attacks demonstrate Trump's own weaknesses. They point to the Trump family's ongoing commercial entanglements around the world, while their daughter and son-in-law work at the White House for the weeks she spent congratulating the Chinese president before blaming Beijing for the pandemic.

In that environment, Biden's team does not believe that a widespread narrative like Hillary's emails obscures this campaign.

People have a really good understanding of who Joe Biden is, Donilon said, arguing that Trump's handling of the pandemic plays into arguments about experience, competence and temperament that Biden has made since he launched his bid last spring.

However, similar Trump smoke screens confused Americans about the Russia and Ukraine investigations. And while the unmasking allegations may inspire the GOP base rather than persuade undecided voters, Trump's allies believe it can help negatively define Biden and demonstrate a coordinated effort to thwart a duly elected president.

It's a reminder that Trump is the stranger trying to confront those who have been entrenched in power for decades, said Jason Miller, one of the top advisers to Trump's 2016 campaign. And if Trump is the stranger, Biden is the intern.