Here comes the Trump attack on Kamala Harris, but it's really about Joe Biden

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speak after the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris

The Trump campaign had its attacks on Sen. Kamala Harris ready to go as soon as former Vice President Joe Biden picked her to be his vice presidential nominee. Only, despite labeling her a “phony” and branding her as a radical leftist, the Trump campaign isn’t so much attacking Harris as it is desperately trying to reframe the race.

Neither Donald Trump nor his campaign has really been able to land a blow on Biden—from Ukraine to “Sleepy Joe” to claims that Biden is experiencing major cognitive decline—so now the strategy is to pivot and try to make this choice into proof that Biden is a radical leftist (ha ha ha ha ha), turning this into a race between Trump and Harris. Harris is, according to a Trump campaign statement, “proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left.” 

“Joe Biden is no moderate,” the statement continues, “and with Harris as his ‘political living will,’ he is surrendering control of our nation” blah blah blah radical mobs, blah blah kill energy jobs, blah blah blah. The policy attacks are basically the same as they’ve always been—the move here is to try to shift attention from Trump vs. Biden, who is winning and has resisted being negatively defined by the Trump campaign, to Trump vs. Harris, who they have a new shot at defining negatively to a general election audience and might be able to drag down using those old favorites, sexism and racism.

They’re so eager to run this play that Donald Trump already tweeted an attack video with the same idea. “Biden calls himself a ‘transition’ candidate, the narrator says, “handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left.”

Expect to hear a lot about “Phony Kamala,” both because Trump himself isn’t going to be able to resist the insult to a woman of color and because that’s part of the official message. But the underlying campaign strategy is to try to move on from the white guy by painting him as a puppet of the inherently untrustworthy Black woman by his side. If they can’t make Joe Biden scary to voters, they’ll try to make Kamala Harris even scarier.

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