Dumb Donald Trump moments tend to go viral. Every misspoken word, baldfaced lie and denture slip makes for good Twitter fodder. So when video of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders quietly making fun of Trump leaked out, it spread like wildfire—so quickly, in fact, that Joe Biden turned it into an ad.
The world is laughing at President Trump. They see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.
We cannot give him four more years as commander in chief. pic.twitter.com/IR8K2k54YQ
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 5, 2019
Biden featured the clip in the campaign ad above alongside some of Trump’s other embarrassing moments, from pushing past the Montenegrin prime minister to being clowned at the UN. The ad touted Biden’s leadership and stressed the need to elect a candidate the world respects. Initial response was positive. Pod Save America’s pundit triumvirate called the ad “great” and “smart,” the ideal way to combat Trump’s corruption and insincerity.
Restoring America’s standing in the world after the disaster of Bush was a very powerful message for Obama in the primary and the general elections
This is a very good ad and smart strategy from the Biden campaign. https://t.co/xNpgqNeznU
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) December 5, 2019
Except there’s a big problem. Hillary Clinton already tried that.
Clinton centered her 2016 campaign around Trump’s general ineptitude. A study published in March 2017 found that only 25 percent of Clinton’s campaign ads attacked Trump on policy. Instead of bold goals or what Clinton could offer the American people, her campaign became about the fact that Donald Trump is bad, and that she wasn’t Donald Trump.
Despite the strategy’s failure, Biden appears eager to open the same playbook. He’s ragged on Trump since he took the oath of office, even threatening to fight him, and his primary candidacy has continued in that vein. Despite leading in most polls, Biden’s campaign has struggled to stand out beyond his name recognition. He’s doubled down on standing up to Trump and returning to the pre-Trump status quo, so much so that other candidates have called him out for riding Barack Obama’s coattails.
But it doesn’t matter how corrupt or inept Trump is, at least in an electoral sense. Trump’s voters don’t care. They probably like that world leaders—including Trudeau, who was caught in the middle of an enormous blackface scandal just a few months ago—don’t like him. It adds to his anti-establishment bonafides, no matter how fictitious those bonafides really are. Those who truly get a kick out of watching Trudeau et. al. openly mock Trump probably aren’t voting for the president anyway.
And campaigning on Trump’s lack of decorum and mental sharpness seems like something that could easily boomerang for Biden, considering his verbal flubs, bizarre leg hair stories and evident belief that it’s fine to snack on your spouse’s fingers during campaign events.
Calling out Trump’s dishonesty and unfitness for office is necessary. You can’t run against him without pointing out the damage he’s done domestically and abroad. But if 2016 taught us anything, basing a campaign solely around Trump’s duplicity won’t work.