Biden bets on Trump attacks to hold off Warren

Biden bets on Trump attacks to hold off Warren
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE is increasing his public criticism of President TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE, betting a tougher tone will help end his decline in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden showed off the new approach on Wednesday when for the first time he said he’d back impeaching the president. It’s the kind of tough talk that donors and other supporters of the former vice president have been pressing him to adopt for weeks. 

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They said Biden, who has cast himself as the candidate best positioned to defeat Trump and end his presidency, has actually been too soft on the White House occupant — leaving the tougher jabs to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenStaff seeks to create union at DNC America's middle class is getting hooked on government cash — and Democrats aren't done yet California Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election MORE (D-Mass.), who has surpassed Biden in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“People expected him to punch Trump square in the face,” one Biden donor said. “And that just wasn’t happening.” 

Biden wanted to remain statesman-like and above the fray surrounding Trump, those close to him say. “I’m not going to get into the mud with him,” he would tell his friends and supporters speaking about Trump. 

Now the gloves are coming off, the former vice president’s allies say, particularly as Trump and his allies continue a near daily assault linked to the impeachment inquiry and Ukraine controversy. 

“You’re going to see him turn up the volume,” one longtime aide said of Biden. “That’s what everyone wants.”

The renewed focus on Trump comes as Warren has continued to rise in the polls and is trying to prove to Democrats that she is also a candidate who can defeat Trump. Warren was the first major Democratic presidential candidate to call on Trump to be impeached. She did so in April, well ahead of much of her party.

With the tougher approach, Biden is trying to lean into Trump’s jabs about Ukraine. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium MORE (D-Calif.) backed a House impeachment inquiry as it became public knowledge that Trump has pressured Ukraine’s government to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who had done work for a Ukrainian energy company. 

This has put Biden at the center of the impeachment inquiry, and has led to new criticisms of the former vice president by Trump and his allies.

On Wednesday in a blistering address in New Hampshire, Biden tore into Trump. 

“We’re not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic nominee for president, period,” Biden said, alluding to the increasingly close horse race with Warren. “He’s picked a fight with the wrong guy.” 

Trump “betrayed the nation,” Biden said. “To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached. He’s shooting holes in the Constitution and we cannot let him get away with it.” 

Sources close to Biden’s campaign say the former vice president will lean into that message at next week’s debate.

“The Biden you've been seeing in recent days is the Biden you'll see on stage,” one ally said. “He’s going to prove to everyone why he’s the only person on that stage who can take on Trump.”  

Biden’s campaign also wants to project the idea that their candidate is on Trump’s mind because he is the only Democrat that Trump thinks can actually beat him.

In a race that has constantly been dominated by the idea that Democrats at all costs want to nominate a candidate who they think will beat Trump, the Biden team thinks this remains his strongest calling card. 

“Join the campaign that beats Trump,” a new Biden ad out this week says after a montage of clips showing the president mentioning Biden. 

Some Democrats, however, say Biden’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric may be too late to hold back Warren. 

“I am shocked it has taken his campaign this long to swing a heavy bat at what is by all appearances to be a softball down the middle,” said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo.  

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He said Biden should have been pressing this message from the day the Ukraine story burst into the public consciousness. 

“Why wasn't this his response immediately? Most campaigns would view this as a gift from a bumbling Donald Trump, but it seemed like the Biden campaign didn't know how to respond,” Trujillo said.

Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, said Biden backed impeachment after he had “political cover to take this position.” Polls how show moderate Democrats are increasingly growing warmer to the idea.

Backing impeachment months after his top rival could give Warren an opening. 

“Biden delivered a strong message about accountability and putting an end to the chaos that I’m sure his supporters liked but it remains to be seen how his primary opponents on the debate stage will handle his belated support for impeachment,” Smikle said.  

Biden allies say the only thing missing from Biden’s campaign in recent months was more assertiveness on his part. 

“We’re facing a guy who will do anything to be elected president again,” one Democratic donor said. “Biden just has to continue to prove that he won’t take any shit from him.”