March 2, 2024

But now that Trump, all but officially the GOP’s nominee for president (sorry, Nikki), is explicitly dictating what elected Republicans do, Biden can update that 2020 message. The chaos of the Trump years, which voters roundly rejected, is in danger of making a comeback. In fact, it’s already back, among Republicans in Congress, and Biden can credibly argue that Trump is the cause of it. Do voters really want to see the White House consumed by it again, too?

The danger for Democrats is that Biden is the actual president (sorry, Donald), and voters tend to blame whoever holds the White House for failures in Congress, even if it’s caused exclusively by the opposing party. Attacking Trump over the inability to secure funding for Ukraine and to address the migrant crisis could backfire. It could seem like buck-passing, making Biden look weak. But the reward is much greater than the risk.

As the president and ex-president, Biden and Trump have the shared disadvantage of being known quantities, which explains why neither has managed to generate much enthusiasm beyond their core supporters. But voters also have short memories. They know exactly what a Biden presidency entails, yet they might have forgotten how it felt during the Trump administration to wake up every day to more news of infighting and madness. Trump is giving them a little taste of it, but it’s up to Biden to make it visceral again.