Trump campaign aims for Joe Biden’s mental fitness

Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee who will take on Donald Trump at the November 3 election - SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee who will take on Donald Trump at the November 3 election – SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

“Joe Biden is slipping”, begins the voiceover as the camera pans towards a television. A clip plays of the Democratic presidential nominee struggling for words and rubbing his brow. 

“Now at the age of 77 years old and running for president for the third time, Biden is clearly diminished,” carries on the female voice, followed by more unflattering clips. 

“Joe Biden,” the advert finishes, “does not have the strength, the stamina and mental fortitude required to lead this country”. 

The official Trump campaign ad was signed off by the US president and pushed on social media last month. On Twitter alone it has been viewed a million times. 

It is a prime example of an attack line the Trump team has increasingly turned to as Mr Biden, the man who stands between the president and a second term, pulls away in the polls. 

In recent months focus has been put relentlessly on Mr Biden’s mental acuity, with the Republican campaign asking not so subtly whether their rival is fading in old age.

For Trump allies, it is a legitimate question to ask of a man who on numerous occasions trips over his words and would be the oldest person elected to the presidency in US history. 

But for critics, it is a cynical attempt to exploit Mr Biden’s gaffes and lack of fluidity in public speaking – he had a stutter when young – to convince voters he is unfit for office. 

The issue was forced into the spotlight this week when Mr Biden, during his first press conference in more than two months, was asked if he had been tested for “cognitive decline”. 

“I’ve been tested and I’m constantly tested,” Mr Biden shot back – an apparent reference to his time on the campaign trail. “I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.”

That drew a glee response from Mr Trump’s son Donald Jr who tweeted an image of a colouring pad scrawled messily with crayons and the caption “Biden releases his cognitive test”.

The allusions to Mr Biden’s sharpness were once made with wink-wink references but now are said quite explicitly by figures at the very top of the Trump campaign. 

Brad Parscale, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, recently tweeted that Mr Biden “gets confused, lost in his own mind, and aimlessly wanders all over the place”, adding: “That guy is not right. “

After Mr Biden mistakenly said 120 million Americans had died from coronavirus, rather than 120,000, a tweet from an official Trump campaign account declared “he’s not playing with a full deck, folks”, adding “#BarelyThereBiden”. 

Other pro-Trump groups have been even more explicit, including one called The Committee to Defend the President which is reportedly putting $400,000 behind Mr Trump’s bid to win on November 3. 

It ran a recent advert which asked: “Is Joe Biden making any sense? Does Joe Biden have dementia? In a world losing its mind, we don’t need a president who has already lost his.”

Mr Biden’s attempt to counter the attacks, as demonstrated in the press conference, appears to be to turn the question back on the president, who can also be loose with his language. 

But the attacks have still left some Democrats frustrated, believing they are well beyond what should be acceptable in a political campaign. 

Will Marshall, the president of Progressive Policy Institute who once advised Bill Clinton, told The Sunday Telegraph the technique echoes Mr Trump’s personalised attacks in the 2016 election campaign. 

Back then Mr Trump dubbed his rival Hillary Clinton “crooked”, led his supporters in chants of “lock her up” and said he would order an investigation into her if he won. 

“Trump long ago crossed the line of what is acceptable to say about one’s opponent in a campaign. The pattern was set in his first campaign,” Mr Marshall said.

He added: “Trump simply doesn’t know how to argue in good faith or disagree with people without slurring them.”

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