Joe Biden is a one-trick-pony with a single act: Blame Donald Trump

‘Burn our boats,” came the order from 16th-century Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.

Having landed in the New World, legend has it that he wanted to drive his troops to victory by eliminating their only chance of escape. 

Joe Biden is nobody’s idea of a swashbuckling adventurer or military leader, but he is adopting a political version of Cortés’ gamble.

Signs indicate the president is giving up on selling his White House term as a success and betting his re-election campaign on a single message: Donald Trump is bad for America. 

Make that really, really, really bad.

He’ll kill democracy and lock up his opponents. 

Remember Jan. 6 and, oh, he’s a convicted felon, too. 

From here to November, that’s the sum and substance of what the president and his surrogates will say.

It will be the heart of their advertising and get-out-the-vote campaigns, with virtually every dollar going toward defining Trump as the absolute worst person in the world. 

Gone from the campaign plan, or so diminished it might as well be gone, are any claims of Biden’s own accomplishments. 

Remember his brief effort to sell “Bidenomics” as a raging success? 

Shelved as a failure and object of ridicule. 

How about the claim that Biden tamed inflation, which was 9% when he took office? 

Debunked as a lie.

He inherited 1.4% inflation, which rose to 9% on his watch. 

Disasters at the border 

Then there’s the southern border.

Upon taking office, Biden rolled back Trump’s successful policies, saying they had “an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity.” 

But since then, more than 11 million illegal border crossers have entered the United States, an overwhelming influx that has no precedent in American history.

So much for law and human dignity. 

The result is that the incumbent is unable to make the case for his main policies, leaving him little choice except to go all negative, all the time. 

Thursday’s debate will give voters a clear view of Biden’s decision and offer Trump a chance to showcase his responses.

The dynamic will add a new dimension to what is already a crucial moment in the campaign. 

Biden, of course, faces the greater peril because he is trailing in national polls as well as most battleground states.

The president demanded the early debate to try to reverse the trend and give his party a shot of optimism before the August convention. 

Yet a major element of the plan is getting shredded as fellow Dems warn that the campaign still lacks a winning strategy. 

An example of the blowback comes in an Atlantic magazine piece, where writer John Hendrickson identifies “The Biden Campaign’s Losing Battle.”

He chronicles aides’ constant squabbling with the media, which he likens to a basketball player reflexively — and foolishly — arguing with referees after every whistle. 

The problem, he writes, is not just the frequency of the criticism, but the content. He believes it’s a dead-end for Biden’s team to demand that the media stop covering Trump as if he’s a normal candidate. 

Forget the horse race, the polls and even most of the issues, the White House seems to be saying. Trump must be treated as a threat to America and nothing else. 

Cozy media backfire 

Although some so-called journalists such as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos have signed on to the effort to delegitimize Trump, it’s not likely to be a steady diet for many outlets.

After all, Trump’s supposed unfitness has been a feature of media coverage for the last eight years. 

Two results: He’s never been stronger politically, and many leftist outlets are sucking wind. 

Besides, it’s tough to argue with a straight face that Trump is a unique threat to democracy when Biden’s party is trying to bankrupt him, imprison him and keep him off election ballots. 

How is any of that protecting democracy? 

More broadly, Biden’s one-note, negative approach is risky because Americans generally want an optimistic president with a Happy Warrior disposition.

Negative campaigning is an important way to draw contrasts, but is rarely offered as the whole meal. 

All of which underscores Biden’s biggest problem: He doesn’t have significant accomplishments he can run on.

Most Americans believe he’s been a terrible president and is too old for a second term. 

Just 40.5% of voters approve of his performance, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls taken in the last two months. 

The surveys show an average disapproval of 55.6%, a gap of 15.1 points.

And some numbers are still sinking, with a Reuters/Ipsos survey showing him with a rock-bottom approval rating of just 36%. 

That’s got defeat written all over it.

Worse, there’s no popular policy where Biden can plant his flag and say it’s an example of what he will do in a second term. 

Consider that on questions covering eight major policies, the public gives him lopsided negative ratings on all eight, as tabulated by RealClearPolitics. 

On the economy, for example, Biden’s average approval is just 40.8%, while his average disapproval is 57.8% — a negative gap of 17 points. 

A separate measure of his handling of inflation has him negative 24 points.

On immigration, meaning the border, he’s negative 27 points. 

The closest he comes to a positive measure is Ukraine, where he’s still negative 13 points.

On crime, he’s negative 14 points. 

On the sweeping question of the direction of the country, just 25.5% approve while 64.3% disapprove, a gap of 38 points. 

Deflect, deflect, deflect 

Now you know why Biden is going to train all his energy on Trump.

He’s reduced to saying to voters, “Don’t look at me, look at him.” 

Thursday will be the first big test.

Whether it works depends on Biden’s energy level and coherence, and how Trump responds. 

Although the two CNN moderators are certain to help Biden, Trump can’t overreact and get into a tit-for-tat of nasty insults.

But even that won’t be sufficient because he also must make a positive case for himself, which would be an effective contrast with Biden. 

Trump’s ultimate challenge is that he still needs to win over a range of Americans, from urban black voters to suburban white women.

Polls say he has made inroads in these and other demographics, but the sale is far from final.

The election is still up for grabs. 

That’s why I believe Trump’s demeanor is almost as important as any zinger or policy comparison.

The Dems’ fear-mongering that he is a dictator-in-waiting remains a big obstacle in the minds of many people. 

He can’t eliminate that fear in one night, but Trump can use the debate to reduce its power.

If he does that, he will win a second or even a third look from some voters and further shrink Biden’s chances of victory. 

In that case, the morning-after sounds you hear will be Dems’ heads exploding. 

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