Go ahead and try, Biden and his advisers say, offering a list of reasons why they believe that strategy won’t work. Though an old white man is not a history-making candidate like Clinton, Biden’s advisers know their candidate benefits from not being a woman, which they think will save him from the sexism and misogyny that defined 2016. They plan to lean into Biden’s personal story of family tragedy to reinforce what they see as his core image of decency, possibly making Trump’s attacks harder to stick. They also believe that running against Trump will allow the 76-year-old former vice president, who first came to Washington, D.C., 47 years ago, to come off as the candidate of change.
“The notion that [Biden is] arguing for the status quo is a little hard when the status quo is Donald Trump,” a Biden adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the campaign’s internal thinking, told me. “What he’s advocating for is a pretty radical change from what we have.”
Still, it’s easy to see how Trump could try to frame Biden as Clinton 2.0. Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972, long before the Clintons arrived in Washington. For years, Biden said he was working on fighting for the middle class, and all the while the middle class was getting squeezed tighter and tighter. Trump’s 2016 campaign communications director, Jason Miller, told me that the president “can simply point at Joe Biden and say, ‘Why would we go back to that?’” Decades of Biden’s floor speeches are lurking in C-SPAN’s archives, providing enough material to hit him on just about any subject. Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies have already tried to make Biden look like he has his own foreign entanglements due to his son Hunter’s work with a Ukrainian-backed company.