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 TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall 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 ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report MORE who played Trump in mock debates in 2016 and is known for his pugnacity, said former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama attends UNC-Duke basketball game Obama introduces himself as 'Michelle's husband' at leadership forum The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (I-Vt.) called it a “pathetic performance,” while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (D-Mass.) called it “disgraceful.” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night Harris on Smollett: 'I'm sad, frustrated, and disappointed' MORE (D-Calif.) said Trump had invited Putin to meddle again in a U.S. election, while Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night 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 BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report The Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down 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.”