Biden campaign tests Trump’s name-calling strategy with 'Broke Don'

Broke Don 032324 Photo GregNashGettyImages

President Biden’s reelection campaign has dubbed former President Trump “Broke Don,” taking a strategy out of Trump’s playbook that his political rivals know all too well.

Trump has used nicknames — from “Little Marco” to “Crooked Hillary” to “Lyin’ Ted” — to put down a variety of opponents. For much of 2020, Biden’s moniker, courtesy of Trump, was “Sleepy Joe.”

Now, the Biden team is seeking to turn the tables in attempting to make one stick to Trump while it worked this week to highlight the former president’s lagging fundraising numbers in the 2024 race.

Trump has picked on dozens of opponents with his nicknames since he first ran for office. Over the years, that’s included not only fellow presidential contenders, such as when he dubbed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “Pocahontas,” but also lawmakers he has considered his ultimate rivals, such as “Cryin’” Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), the Senate Majority Leader, and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom he’s called “Crazy Nancy.”

Some have been considered offensive, while others have been deemed just silly name calling.

The Biden team is now trying their hand at lambasting the former president, often by poking fun at his debts as he faces mounting legal penalties, leaving some Democrats questioning if that’s the right move.

“The Biden team’s instinct to earn free media, try to get under his skin, and go on offense is the right one. But mimicking Trump has been done before and has never really worked,” one Democratic strategist said.

“You can’t out-Trump Trump because he’s the original version. I would say they need to be more creative in producing their own original and unique strategy to bring him down a peg that shocks and awes,” the strategist added.

Bruce Mehlman, a former official under President George W. Bush, cited Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw to warn against such a tactic.

“George Bernard Shaw famously advised ‘never wrestle with a pig because you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it,’” Mehlman said.

The Biden campaign tried out the “Broke Don” nickname this week after election filings made public Wednesday showed Trump’s 2024 campaign brought in $10.9 million last month, while his joint fundraising committee raised nearly $11 million. It has about $42 million in cash on hand. 

Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign operation raised roughly $53 million in February, which gave it $155 million in cash on hand entering March, which surpassed Trump’s campaign war chest.

Trump is also saddled with more than $500 million in penalties stemming from two New York civil cases. Biden has poked fun at this too, telling crowds at fundraisers this week that “a defeated man” came up to him and said, “I’m being crushed by debt.” 

“I had to say, ‘I’m sorry Donald, I can’t help you,’” Biden joked.

A former Trump transition official argued that the Biden campaign’s resorting to name calling is another reason people are frustrated with both parties.  

“America is losing its perch as the great shining light of democracy. Both sides are at fault,” the official said. 

Others find Biden’s approach refreshing.

“The days of ‘when they go low we go high,’ are over. No one is saying that the president needs to jump into the mud with Trump, but it’s nice seeing him getting his hands dirty,” said Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins. “Bullies don’t comprehend notions like diplomacy and niceties, they only respond when they get punched back.”

The president and his allies have stepped up their mockery of Trump in recent weeks.

At one point this week, the Biden team said Trump would “fire himself” if his campaign fundraising numbers were up on “The Apprentice,” the NBC show that catapulted Trump to stardom and in which he famously declared “You’re fired!” to a host of contestants.

Biden has also called Trump a “loser” multiple times while on the campaign trail, including on Thursday when he said at a fundraiser in Houston that he wants to see Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lose to challenger Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) “so Ted can join loser Donald Trump.”

The hits at Trump over his precarious financial standing are particularly pointed, considering the former president made his name as a successful New York real estate mogul. 

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The Democratic strategist argued that while Trump leans into negative campaigns against his opponents, Biden has a different personality from his political rival.

“What makes Trump unique is that since day one of becoming a candidate back in 2015, he has been the primary vessel waging the negative campaign, not through proxies like surrogates, advertisements, campaign officials, or hot mics,” the Democratic strategist said.

“I’m not sure if Biden has it in him to be a vehicle for intellectual dishonesty or circus performing but that type of sensational approach to politics is what grabs media attention and it’s what voters ultimately consume,” the strategist added.

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