CPAC attendees say Biden poses greatest threat to Trump

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — They’re confident Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE will win a second term, but many attendees of the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists agreed that Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Runoff elections in Texas, Alabama set for Tuesday Biden campaign slams White House attacks on Fauci as 'disgusting' Biden lets Trump be Trump MORE poses the greatest threat to the president in 2020.

Grass-roots activists at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) repeatedly invoked the former Democratic vice president when asked who would be the most formidable challenger to Trump ahead of his reelection campaign.

Trump’s approval rating is in the 40s, he’s losing favor with independent voters, and newly empowered House Democrats are turning up the heat with a myriad of investigations into his policies, business dealings and personal scandals.   

Trump is slated to address CPAC, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, on Saturday.

“I think it would be Joe Biden. I just think a bunch of Democrats would rally around him. I just think he would be the most most formidable candidate,” said Joseph Lewis of Emmett, Idaho, who was attending his first CPAC gathering with his friend, Barbara Hawkins. “He’s experienced, everybody knows him, but he’s well known for his gaffes.”

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An attendee from Virginia, who would only give his first name as Greg, said Biden could “come across as a mature leader” in a race against Trump, who’s been admonished by some fellow Republicans for his often-personal Twitter attacks.

And a former Trump administration official attending CPAC said Democrats could combine experience and blue-collar appeal with diversity and energy on the left if Biden and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit Biden's marijuana plan is out of step with public opinion MORE (D-Calif.) ran as a ticket, which could be dangerous for Republicans.

“A Biden-Kamala ticket would be formidable,” said the former Trump official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Biden, a son of Scranton, Pa., who served as former President Obama’s vice president for two terms, said this week that he is being encouraged by his family members to jump in the crowded primary race after passing on a 2016 bid following the death of his son, Beau Biden. But Biden has yet to make a decision.

Friends and allies who speak to Biden regularly say they believe he is almost certain to announce a run in the coming months. Former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondBlack Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Gaetz tweets photo of teenage adopted son after hearing battle Tensions flare between Reps. Cedric Richmond and Matt Gaetz during police reform hearing MORE (D-La.) said he believes Biden is “90 percent” leaning toward running for president.

“I’ve been talking to him about running since election night two years ago. I think he was the first person I reached out to and said, ‘You have to do this for the country,’ ” Richmond recounted in an interview in the Capitol this week. “Every time you see the calamity of foolishness coming out of the White House, I’d always pick up the phone and call and encourage him.”

But Biden’s decades-long career in politics means he’d enter the 2020 Democratic primary with a lot of baggage. CPAC activists called the 76-year-old former vice president too gaffe-prone, too liberal, and a creature of the Washington swamp.   

 “He’s the wrong color and he’s the wrong gender” to win the Democratic nomination, said Jeff Johnson, who traveled to CPAC from DeKalb, Ill. “That’s identity politics — that’s all they’re fighting on. It’s not about the best qualified person. Biden’s a bozo; he’s a career politician, he’s an idiot.”

Teresa Mendoza, sporting a red “Latinas for Trump” T-shirt, also said she wasn’t too concerned about Biden, whom she dismissed as a “creeper” with “too much baggage.” Instead, Mendoza said she’s closely monitoring another potential Trump challenger: former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz.   

“I’m a lifelong Democrat who can’t recognize her party,” Mendoza said. “So when there is a moderate Democrat who comes along, he’s somebody who could draw people to him because he’s a business owner and he’s moderate, and he’s calling out the party for how unhinged they are."

“They are literally batshit crazy,” she said.

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Republican Lawrence Zupan, a Trump supporter who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic Biden lets Trump be Trump Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects MORE (I-Vt.) last fall, also called the current crop of Democratic 2020 hopefuls — including Sens. Harris, Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE (Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Democratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter MORE (N.Y.), as well as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state — “fourth-tier candidates” and “lightweights who will be blown away in the wind by Donald Trump.”

But when asked if Biden was one of those lightweights, Zupan suddenly got serious.

“Joe Biden politically is not a lightweight,” Zupan told The Hill. “If Joe Biden comes in, despite the fact that he somehow looks moderate compared to the crazies running for the office, he might pose a threat to the president. He might be somebody who would be a force to be reckoned with, only because [he represents that] Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: 'Voting by mail shouldn't be a partisan issue' How cable TV and sensationalized crime reporting led to 'cancel culture' Judge again blocks US from resuming federal executions MORE-era nostalgia."

“He’s got the blue-collar appeal, but if anyone wearing a blue collar understood his destructive ideas, they would change collars,” Zupan continued. “It’s his faux, everyman ethos that he tries to portray while he rides around and gets treated like a monarch for his $200,000 speeches.”

Earlier this year, Tim Chapman, an executive with the outside conservative group Heritage Action, said during a C-SPAN interview that “Biden keeps me up at night” because he is “perceived as a moderate” but has “credibility with working-class voters.”

“I think the entire game in 2020 is whether Republicans can recreate that coalition of 2016,” Chapman said. “Losing working-class voters would make it very hard for a Republican to win.” 

Yet there were a number of Trump surrogates at CPAC who argued that the president has nothing to worry about in 2020, especially given the pack of liberals vying for the nomination who are pushing for “socialist” ideas like the "Green New Deal" and "Medicare for all."

“Socialism is not going to cut it. They are so far left,” Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsLawmaker-linked businesses received PPP loans Rhode Island moves toward changing its official name over slavery connotations Financial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era MORE (R-Texas), who is backing Trump’s reelection, said as he left the main stage at CPAC. “I see it as a great benefit to us if we don't mess it up because America is not going to go left; America is not going to go the fantastic green program or Medicare for nobody. I’m not worried about any of them.”

Maj Toure, another Trump backer and the founder of gun-rights group Black Guns Matter, said he, too, didn’t see anyone in the Democratic field who would stand a chance against Trump, though he did single Harris out for praise.

“They would have to come in strong on the economy. They would have to come in strong on national security. And they would have to come in way better than the current administration is on the Second Amendment. I don’t see anyone on the left doing that,” Toure told The Hill.

“Joe Biden has been horrible because of his gun-free zones. Since 1991, over 90 percent of massacres have been in gun-free zones. So he clearly won’t work,” he added. “Maybe a Kamala. Lots of energy, a woman, African-American. On those checklists, it would make sense, but other than that I just don’t see anybody.”