Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has been getting hassled all morning by anti-Trumpers for the following tweet. Don’t you know what happens at the end of the movie, Brad?

I think it’s smart to go on offense early against Joe Skywalker, though. And I’m surprised at how many Trump cronies disagree.

Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is about to unleash a massive negative ad campaign against Joe Biden — the president’s most aggressive effort yet to damage his Democratic opponent…

Still, Trump’s team has disagreed over whether or not to go negative with the coronavirus still raging. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, has urged the president to focus for now on uplifting ads highlighting his role in managing the crisis. Trump has also been hearing from friends urging him to lay off Biden for the time being.

Among the Trump allies urging restraint has been former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has called for the president to focus on addressing the pandemic and wait on an anti-Biden blitz until after the Republican convention in August. Fox News host Sean Hannity has privately told senior Republicans that the president should hold off for now.

I don’t understand that thinking, especially Kellyanne’s bizarre “accentuate the positive” idea as we approach 75,000 dead. Go negative on Biden. It’s never too early to start defining one’s opponent. And now seems an opportune time to try to change the subject politically, as the country lurches towards a hasty reopening of the economy that’s discouraged by Trump’s federal guidelines even if it’s encouraged by the president himself. If it backfires, the White House is going to want to talk about anything except what’s happening in the news. Why not try to start people talking about Joe Biden?

Trump can win a “referendum” election if the epidemic diminishes in intensity before November and the economy begins to recover. If that doesn’t happen, he can’t. So it’s wise to start early on framing the election as a “choice.” Trump has something going for him too, as I pointed out yesterday. Despite the cataclysmic job numbers, he still polls well head to head against Biden on who’ll do best at handling the economy. YouGov noticed as well:

The president’s biggest advantage in this election is the belief that he can handle the economy. A majority of the country approves of how he is handling that issue. He fares worse when it comes to handling the coronavirus. Still, his overall rating this week is among the best of his presidency, with the same percentage of the country approving as disapproving…

A pair of questions about how each man would handle an economic recession (one that 53% believe the country is currently in) also shows the president’s current advantage on this concern. Americans are evenly divided (43% to 43%) on whether they are confident or uneasy about Trump’s ability to handle an economic recession; as for Biden, just 33 percent are confident about his ability to handle a recession, while 44 percent are uneasy.

Team Trump is reportedly preparing to go after Biden over China, Hunter Biden’s Ukraine business, and the 2009 financial crisis. I think they’re pumping a dry well on the Ukraine stuff, except as a way to deflect impeachment-related attacks from Democrats. But focusing on 2009 is smart as it’s an excuse to remind voters that they prefer Trump on the economy. And focusing on China is smart since polls shows that both parties have soured on Beijing lately, not surprisingly. Lo and behold, here’s a new China-themed ad Parscale rolled out today:

He also posted the second ad below, which is weak tea insofar as it revisits old news about Biden but might be useful in winning over swing voters in the same way that the Tara Reade matter is. It’s not so much that Team Trump expects voters to hold the Reade allegation against Biden as that they hope voters won’t hold the many sexual misconduct allegations facing the president against him. Reade’s charge makes the topic a “wash,” or so Republicans will claim. Same goes for Trump’s habit of lying about, well, practically everything. Biden’s a liar too, you know:

Politico reports on another avenue of Republican strategy today, namely the inclinations of Senate candidates to support Trump enthusiastically on his coronavirus response. For all of my criticism of how he’s handled the pandemic, I think that’s the right play too. Really, what’s the alternative?

Senate Republicans are settling on their pandemic message as they fight to save their majority: President Donald Trump did a tremendous job…

But nearly all GOP senators running for reelection have decided there’s little utility in breaking with the president, particularly after seeing some fellow Republicans collapse at the ballot box with such a strategy. And if the economy recovers and the virus dissipates by the fall, Republicans could benefit by sticking with Trump.

It’s the latest sign that Trump has nearly total control over his party. And that Republicans see their own political fortunes tied to the president’s, amid a global pandemic that will dominate both the presidential race and the battle for the Senate over the next six months.

Their fortunes are tied to the president’s, inextricably. I feel like we’ve been having the same conversation about Trump and his supporting cast in Congress since early 2016, before he became president. Should they abandon him because of [insert scandal or crisis here]? And the answer is always the same: No, because he’s the head of a cult that will happily punish any incumbent who turns on their leader by refusing to turn out for that incumbent the next time they’re on the ballot. It’s why the outcome of the impeachment trial was assured from the start, up to and including the acquittal vote of alleged “maverick” Susan Collins. Republicans will always stand to lose votes on balance by criticizing Trump because there just aren’t enough swing voters to offset the losses they’d suffer within their own base for doing so. If you gain 10 points by impressing independents in telling Trump to buzz off and you lose 20 points by alienating hardcore Trumpist Republicans then you’re headed for a landslide defeat. The more cultish a party’s base is towards the president, the less ability legislators have to defy him and keep their jobs.

The only option is to embrace the cult and back the leader. That’ll solidify the base, which will make the election tight in a purple state. Then it’s a matter of finding arguments that don’t involve criticizing the president to woo that decisive five percent in the middle. Start with the economy: “Elect me, Susan Collins, to another term and Republicans will rebuild the post-COVID economy bigger and better than the one we had from 2017 to early 2020.” That might be enough. Certainly it’s a smarter play than antagonizing Trumpers by reminding them that their hero has basically walked off the job of trying to contain the epidemic by building a functioning test-and-trace system. Outright denial of reality by insisting that he’s done a “tremendous job” is the way to go.