Feb 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden's unlikely Republican surrogates


Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is strategically harnessing sound bites from top Republicans in Congress — some seething, some celebrating — to bolster its arguments about the collapse of the Senate's border bill.

Why it matters: President Biden vowed Tuesday to remind voters "every day" that former President Trump's political gamesmanship is the "only reason the border is not secure." Some Republicans are at risk of becoming unwitting surrogates on behalf of that message.

Driving the news: Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator, criticized Republicans on the Senate floor Wednesday for allowing presidential politics to influence their vote.

  • "I had a popular commentator ... that told me flat out, 'If you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you,'" Lankford revealed ahead of the Senate's failed vote to advance the bill.
  • Within minutes, the Biden campaign was clipping and broadcasting the remarks on its rapid-response social media channels — quickly racking up tens of thousands of views.

The big picture: In one of Congress' most dysfunctional weeks in recent memory, the Biden campaign repeatedly has struck viral gold by seizing on moments of candor and frustration aired by Republicans.

  • "If we have a bill that, on net, significantly decreases illegal immigration, and we sabotage that — that is inconsistent with what we told our voters we will do," the campaign clipped Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) telling CNN.
  • Another viral clip showed former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin in disbelief: "House Republicans — at Donald Trump's direction — are tanking [the border bill] because he wants to be able to campaign on solving it."
  • The campaign's rapid-response account has even retweeted Nikki Haley's attacks on Trump on multiple occasions, using the former president's remaining GOP rival as a cudgel against him.
Nikki Haley tweet
Screenshot via X

Flashback: Last July, a Biden campaign ad that featured excerpts from a speech by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) generated more than 44 million views on X.

  • "Joe Biden had the largest public investment in social infrastructure and environmental programs. That is actually finishing what FDR started, that LBJ expanded on, and Joe Biden is attempting to complete," Greene said in remarks meant to be critical.
  • "I approve this message," Biden tweeted.

The other side: As amusing as the strategy may be to Biden's supporters, the stark reality is that the president's approval rating remains at a record low — with especially poor marks on his handling of the border.

  • Republicans who helped kill the Senate's border bill believe Democrats will struggle to flip the script on immigration, given how voters view the past three years of Biden's policies.
  • A key test of both parties' immigration messaging will come next Tuesday, when New York holds a special election to fill the seat vacated by Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).
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