Trump Rivals Are Beholden to Him, Says Biden Campaign Blitz Ahead of GOP Debate

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign aims to use the first Republican presidential debate to paint the field of challengers as extremists inexorably tied to Donald Trump, even as the former president and current GOP frontrunner toys with skipping the event.

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Biden’s campaign plans to launch a national advertising push that will include buys targeting Hispanic and Black media, as well as a billboard campaign across Milwaukee, where Republicans are gathering Aug. 23 for the debate.

The Democratic National Committee will hold an in-person press conference with its chairman, Jaime Harrison, and campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, a former White House aide, in Wisconsin.

Biden’s team is also planning new ads on Meta Platforms Inc.’s social media networks — in hopes of parlaying debate coverage into fundraising — and is hosting a volunteer training session over the weekend ahead of the debate.

The efforts will be oriented around painting the Republican field as in the thrall of Trump and his policies, according to Biden campaign aides. The approach mirrors Democrats’ strategy in last year’s midterms, where candidates focused on abortion rights and painted Republicans as beholden to Trump, even as the GOP sought to frame the contest as a referendum on Biden’s popularity and economic performance.

“Next week, the American people will be introduced to the most extreme slate of presidential candidates in history,” said Harrison in a statement. “Candidates will take to the stage to out-MAGA each other, and we will ensure that every American knows that.”

The Biden campaign effort faces a tricky dynamic in Milwaukee: Trump has publicly flirted with skipping the Fox News debate, and has refused to sign a Republican National Committee pledge to back the party’s eventual nominee. In recent weeks, Trump, who holds a substantial polling lead over the rest of the Republican field, has sought to counter-program traditional GOP events with his own rallies and media appearances.

Read more: Trump Plans Rival Events to Deny GOP Challengers the Spotlight

Still, Biden’s team believes the debate is an opportunity to highlight how the Republican primary field remains loyal to the former president, despite multiple criminal indictments stemming from Trump’s handling of classified documents and efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election.

“Next week’s Republican debate will put on display just how extreme and out of touch the Republican candidates are with the American people,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement. “That’s why we’re using the debate as an opportunity to activate and energize our supporters, as well as expand support for the Biden-Harris ticket and our agenda for the middle class and protecting Americans’ freedoms.”

(Updates to add comment from Harrison in sixth paragraph)

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