Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign and endorsed Biden, making Biden the presumptive nominee. Trump’s first ad went up a few days ago, and it tells us a lot about how the campaign is going to go. 

Trump’s first ad works on several levels, his people obviously know their cognitive science and psychology. The big bottom line, their leading attack will be China. The ad features clips of Biden praising them. “They’re not bad guys,” he says in a “come on, man, you can trust me” voice. The word “communist” is heard loudly at one point. The ad paints Biden as a China (communist) sympathizer, protecting his interests there, credibly suggesting Hunter Biden makes “billions” from China. Credibly, because Hunter was involved in a deal with China worth a billion dollars.

The ad is very well designed to give the impression Biden will sell you out for a billion dollars. Biden’s record and current position on trade with China are aligned with that idea. Many in the electorate, especially the older white electorate, believes that China is our enemy and has been screwing us for a long time. Biden could run ads showing Trump praising China, but they would be ineffective. First, they would be seen as a response to Trump’s ad, a defensive action. Second, Trump started a trade war with China, so he’s obviously standing up to them.

Biden’s response? That there’s a small section of the ad that is plausibly racist, some will feel it’s a stretch. The Biden campaign has excellent mainstream media contacts, so the media is picking up the racist angle on the controversy.

This accomplishes two things, both of them bad for Biden. First, it ensures there’s a controversy over the ad, which ensures the ad will get lots of free media play. The MSNBCs and CNNs of the world will show the whole ad for free, so they can talk about the plausibly racist bits. Their audience will see Trump accusing Biden of being a communist sympathizer, and they’ll see Biden respond by calling Trump racist. Second, anyone who doesn’t already know Trump is racist isn’t going to be convinced by this new evidence. That’s already baked into the election. Calling attention to the ad only hurts Biden – his response has no possibility of gaining him votes, while giving Trump a bunch of free airtime.

This demonstrates Biden and his team don’t have any idea, apparently haven’t even thought much about how to handle Trump’s key public relations advantage – his ability to force the media to cover him. They’d have been better off ignoring the ad. This is public relations 101 – don’t create a media event (controversy) that highlights your opponent’s strength and your weaknesses. 

The strong response? Trump shipped jobs overseas anytime he had that chance. No one forced Apple or Amazon or General Motors or any other company to move their production to China. Those companies decided that all on their own. The enemies of working people sit in corporate boardrooms right here in the USA. China didn’t steal American jobs, the 1% shipped those jobs overseas to pad their bank accounts and boost their stock valuations. 

Trump is an enemy of hard-working people everywhere, giving tax breaks to highly profitable corporations with major production overseas, and shipping jobs overseas whenever it was in the interest of his bank account. Those are the only arguments capable of blunting this attack. Anything else looks weak or starts to get into the weeds too deeply.

Biden will never make this argument because he still believes in the kind of trade deals that allowed companies to ship jobs overseas with no regard for the consequences to their own country or local communities. He’ll defend trade with China and have no answer for Trump’s accusation that he’ll sell you out for money.

First Biden v Trump skirmish in the general, Trump wins decisively. To win, Biden needs to raise his game, and do it quickly.

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