President Donald Trump made news after speaking at a West Point Commencement ceremony this month because he struggled to drink from a water glass without using both hands. When he walked down the ramp from the stage, he slowly descended like he would have benefited from a cane to help give him stability. He claimed that the ramp was slippery, despite there not being any rain or freezing weather.
Since thens, his campaign has attempted to paint former Vice President Joe Biden as the senile old man. The effort was one utilized in 2016 when the right-wing tried to label Hillary Clinton as being so ill that she would be dead within the first six months of being elected. Clinton, who is still alive nearly four years after the election, is actually younger than Trump. Biden, however, is three years older than the president. It's an awkward pitch for the Trump campaign to make because Trump will be Biden's age if he were to be elected to a second term. So, the campaign can't make the case that Biden is too old, so they've opted for senile.
"We need to be demonizing him," one Republican lawmaker told Axios. The lawmaker, who frequently speaks with Trump, said that the insult "Sleepy Joe" is a "harmless, congenial and low key" insult. "Sleepy probably sounds nice to a lot of people right now, with everything that's going on."
Trump's campaign has taken videos of Biden praying with his eyes closed to try and make it seem as if the former VP is asleep.
Axios noted that it's a tough climb for the Trump team and there's not much time to do it.
"You're not going to make Joe Biden hated personally," said one source involved in the campaign's discussions. "You can't do it through personality."
"In April's NBC/WSJ poll, only 25 percent of voters held a 'very negative' view of Biden." But in 2016, 42 percent of voters had a "very negative" opinion of Hillary Clinton. Even Trump has struggled to figure out ways of attacking Biden. What makes matters worse is that Biden makes friends with everyone, whether they agree with him or not. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) gave one of the most passionate and powerful endorsements of Biden in a 2015 interview.
"He is as good a man as God ever created," Graham said of Biden, his eyes filling with tears.
Trump has tried to change years of calling Biden "Sleepy Joe" to call him "corrupt," still trying to use his old conspiracy theories about Ukraine to claim it is true.
Even Trump has struggled to try to explain why Biden is a bad person. In Thursday night's town hall with Fox News, Trump proclaimed, "I don't think Biden's a radical left, but it doesn't matter because they're going to just do whatever they want to do. They'll take him over. ... Whether you like it or not, he's shot. The radical left is going to take him over."
There's also a concern that Trump is trying to claim Biden is both senile and corrupt. If someone is senile, they're not smart enough to be corrupt, Axios pointed out. So, realistically, they're just trying to find something, anything, that will work.
At the same time, the country is continuing to suffer from the COVID-19 outbreak and the economy's stability during the pandemic. Now that cases are surging again, Trump is still trying to hold rallies and ignore the concern. If he continues to focus more on beating Biden instead of protecting Americans, it may backfire even more.