Dems look for candidate who will punch Trump ‘square in the face’

Dems look for candidate who will punch Trump ‘square in the face’
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To beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE, Democrats running for the White House need to be much more proactive in taking on the president, say party strategists critical of contenders who they see as too reactive rather than proactive. 

Democrats are good at offering strong responses to Trump, but they aren’t taking the fight to him, the strategists say. 

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“I haven’t seen one potential candidate who is willing to punch him square in the face,” one top Democratic strategist said. “And that’s what we need to do. You can’t win a race against this guy by being graceful or by waiting to be attacked.” 

Philippe Reines, the longtime adviser to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonYoung Turks founder says Democrats should avoid repeat of 2016 and pick a progressive Young Turks founder says Democrats should avoid repeat of 2016 and pick a progressive Trump highlights polls that showed Clinton beating him by double digits MORE who played Trump in mock debates in 2016 and is known for his pugnacity, said former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama to lead female celebrity dodgeball team in 'Late Late Show' face-off Obamas sign deal with Spotify to produce podcasts Obamas sign deal with Spotify to produce podcasts MORE’s famous “when they go low, we go high” line no longer applies. 

“This notion that you go high or go low is a false choice, it’s become a misnomer,” Reines said. “Democrats are going to want to see someone with the moxie, they’re going to want to see absolute contempt for Trump.” 

Democrats have been outraged over Trump for most of his presidency, but they are now fired up over the forced separations of families at the border, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the president’s widely criticized performance at a press conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Trump at the presser appeared to side with Putin, accepting his denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He attempted to walk back the remarks on Tuesday.

The latest controversies have just increased Democratic demand for a candidate who will get aggressive with Trump. 

On Monday, all of the Democrats seen as leading contenders for the party’s presidential nomination issued statements criticizing Trump. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Kamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Playing fast and loose with the economic facts MORE (I-Vt.) called it a “pathetic performance,” while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from first Democratic debate lineup Five takeaways from first Democratic debate lineup Black Economic Alliance official says African-American voters will 'determine who sits in the White House' MORE (D-Mass.) called it “disgraceful.” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages Kamala Harris rallies with McDonald's workers striking for higher wages 22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry MORE (D-Calif.) said Trump had invited Putin to meddle again in a U.S. election, while Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE (D-N.Y.) said Trump “abdicated his national security responsibilities” by not holding Putin accountable for meddling in the presidential election. 

Trump says he isn’t worried about a challenge. 

In an interview last week with British journalist Piers Morgan, Trump was asked if he sees a Democrat who can beat him. “No,” Trump replied.

“I don’t see anybody,” he said. “I know them all and I don’t see anybody. They do not have the right candidate.” 

Tobe Berkovitz, a professor of communication at Boston University who has worked as a political media consultant, said it’s not easy for Democrats to take the fight to Trump, who has a number of advantages that come with owning the bully pulpit. 

He also credits Trump with mastering the art of having an opponent play into his hands. 

“It’s like he is one giant political trap and no one has figured out how do we avoid the trap and win,” he added. “I hate to say it, because it’s so pathetic, but this is the brilliance of Trump.” 

Reines, however, thinks there are ways for candidates to put Trump on defense. 

He pointed to Warren’s recent response to Trump after he challenged her to take a DNA test at a political debate. 

Warren did punch back on Twitter: “While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas & you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order. Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you’re destroying.” 

But Reines said Warren could have taken it a step further and challenged Trump to a debate. 

“She should say, ‘You tell me where and when, and I’ll see you there,’ ” he said.  

Democrats searching for a post-2016 message and a leader of the party are grappling with whether to go left or to the center with their candidate and over whether they need a fresh face or a seasoned politician. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry 22 presidential candidates to attend Clyburn's South Carolina fish fry Young Turks founder says Democrats should avoid repeat of 2016 and pick a progressive MORE is the leading candidate in polls. 

In March, Biden ended up walking back comments about fighting Trump.

“A guy who ended up becoming out national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,’ ” he said before adding, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” 

Berkovitz argued that Democrats are in a difficult position. 

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, because one of the primary political lessons is ‘Don’t get into a wrestling match with a pig,’ ” Berkovitz said. “He drags everyone down to his level, so how do you rationally, articulately respond to his crazy rants without ranting crazily? That’s the quandary.” 

But Adam Parkhomenko, the strategist who co-founded the super PAC Ready for Hillary, said the Democrats need to “step it up” and do more to bring the fight to Trump, particularly in light of this week’s comments on Russia.  

“People are looking for a boxing match and I don’t think anyone is on the offense to the extent that they should be,” he said. “They’re just not filling the appetite of voters.”