GOP thinks it has found winning argument for Trump



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Republicans have a new twist on the slogan, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Their argument now: Were you better off under former President Trump than you are under President Biden?

Republicans argue the economy — particularly inflation — was better under Trump than it is under Biden. And they say Trump had a better handle on foreign policy, pointing to the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine. They also maintain the border was more secure under the former president. 

It’s an assertion that even Democrats acknowledge could be a problem for Biden as he heads into a pivotal stretch of the campaign season against Trump. And it’s a line of reasoning Democrats expect the former president to highlight when he faces off with Biden later this month when the two share a debate stage.

“If I were advising Trump, I’d say exactly that,” one longtime Democratic strategist said, echoing the line of, “Were you better off under President Trump?” “These are the issues voters care about and we’re losing the debate on each one, even if we don’t want to admit it.”  

The Democrat and other strategists acknowledge the “are you better off now than you were four years ago” argument doesn’t work altogether because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four years ago, the nation was in the midst of a near lockdown, where Americans largely worked from home, canceled summer plans and feared contracting a virus that would inevitably kill millions and require weeks of hospitalization for others. 

At the time, Trump recommended injecting bleach as a way of fighting the Coronavirus — a cringeworthy moment even for many Republicans. And when he contracted the virus himself in the fall 2020, he downplayed it even as it continued to run rampant before vaccinations were available. 

“Four years ago, we were in the middle of a pandemic and Donald Trump was making it worse,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “Their entire argument ignores the very thing we hire presidents to do, which is to manage crises. And he failed spectacularly.” 

Asked if Republicans had an argument to make that the country was better off before the pandemic, Simmons replied, “That’s like saying, ‘Before your house got broken into, wasn’t your neighborhood safe?’” 

But GOP strategists — even those who don’t support Trump and don’t plan to vote for the former president — still say there’s a case to be made for him.

“The argument still can work for Trump,” said Republican strategist Doug Heye, who doesn’t support the former president, adding that “voters are upset with the direction of the country,” including rising prices and the crisis at the border. 

Recent polls underscore that rationalization from Republicans. 

An ABC News/Ipsos poll last month showed voters trusted Trump over Biden when it came to the issues of the economy and inflation by a margin of 14 percentage points. 

On immigration, an Associated Press/NORC poll in April revealed 68 percent of adults older than 18 years throughout the United States disapprove of Biden’s immigration policies, while only 31 percent approve. Among Democrats, the poll showed 56 percent say the president has handled the issue well. 

And when it comes to foreign policy, Biden is also trailing Trump.

In May, a New York Times/Siena poll found that among voters across six battleground states, half said they trusted Trump more than Biden when it comes to handling the conflict in Gaza. The survey showed that 35 percent said they trusted Biden more than the former president. 

Trump aides have seized on the recent polls as proof of the case they’re making to voters on the major issues. 

“The answer is they are better off and polling makes that clear,” said Danielle Alvarez, a Trump spokesperson. 

But Democrats say Biden needs to continue to make the case that Trump’s policies and positions wouldn’t serve the country. 

“Elections are about choices. It is not a referendum,” said Tim Hogan, a Democratic strategist. “That’s the framing the Biden campaign must continue pushing.”

“The economy is recovering and Trump’s inflationary policies would make it worse,” Hogan said. “Democrats proposed bipartisan legislation on the border and Trump killed it. Trump would once again act as an unstable madman on the world stage. 

“Much of the work in 2024 is preventing nostalgic amnesia for Trumpian self-interested chaos,” he added. 

Amnesia or not, the Democratic strategist predicted Republicans would keep making the case because “they’re winning.” 

“People do think things were better under Trump,” the strategist said. “So now it’s up to us to prove them wrong.” 



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