Mr Trump has hit out at the former vice president via Twitter in recent days, labelling Mr Biden “sleepy Joe” and questioning his intelligence – but the intervention belies a belief that Mr Biden is a serious rival.
“The candidates he doesn’t talk about, it’s a signal that he doesn’t take them seriously,” a Republican strategist close to the Trump campaign told Politico.
Mr Trump and Mr Biden have regularly traded barbs during the president’s term. In March 2018 Mr Biden said he would have “beat the hell” out of Mr Trump if the pair were in high school over his remarks about women, while Mr Trump has repeatedly hit out at Mr Biden’s previous presidential runs at rallies.
Mr Biden has also repeatedly admonished Mr Trump for the direction he is taking America.
As early as last Autumn, Mr Trump was discussing with his aides about the threat posed by the former vice president.
“How are we gonna beat Biden?” he would ask, according to the Republican strategist. After being assured that Mr Biden would never make it out of a tough Democratic primary, Mr Trump pushed back: “But what if he does?” Mr Biden eventually announced his candidacy on Thursday.
In July 2018 Mr Trump called Mr Biden his “dream opponent” during an interview with CBS News. “Look, Joe Biden ran three times. He never got more than 1 per cent and President Obama took him out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did,” Mr Trump said. However, such confident public statements often contradict the descriptions of the presidents demeanour during private meetings.
Early, hypothetical polling of a potential Trump-Biden match-up in the 2020 election has Mr Biden leading the president by eight percentage points. The Morning Consult/Politico poll of nearly 2,000 voters, released on Wednesday, shows Mr Biden supported by 42 per cent of registered voters with Mr Trump backed by 34 per cent of voters.
Mr Trump’s apparent fears about Mr Biden’s candidacy could be related to the fact that he has more in common with the former vice president than the rest of the Democrat field. Both are in their 70s and have been able to win over blue-collar, high-school educated voters. Indeed in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that could prove crucial, it is thought Mr Biden will be able to compete closely with Mr Trump.
Both also are prone to making remarks and gaffes that can lead to ridicule, and both speak more often to the press and in public than their teams may be comfortable with.
One Republican legislator, who speaks with the president, made the threat posed by Mr Biden clear. “We have had a number of conversations about potential challengers, and Biden has been at the top of the list because of his polling numbers,” the unnamed politician told Politico. “He is seen as one of the most difficult potential challengers because of his appeal to independents and his likeable style.”
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