President Trump has publicly boasted that he could beat any of his 2020 Democratic challengers. Privately, several members of his campaign see a few who could pose a threat to his re-election, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
- The campaign is in the early stages of building an attack strategy.
The bottom line: The three candidates who seem to concern the Trump campaign most are Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.
- That's in no particular order, and insiders all have different rankings.
Why they're worried:
Joe Biden: Several Trump advisers think the former VP is best positioned to take back the white Rust Belt voters Trump carried in 2016, making purple states like Michigan and Wisconsin more dangerous for the campaign.
- "A guy who loves his guns and God is not voting for Kamala Harris," a former Trump campaign staffer said. "But he would vote for Joe Biden. He’s a lot harder for them to demonize."
- "Biden is the only Democrat who passes the commander-in-chief test, which makes him appealing — particularly to swing voters," David Tamasi, former finance director of the Trump Victory Fund, told Axios.
- The other side: "He's low energy, and if he wins the nomination, all of the energy on the Dems' side will deflate like a balloon,” said a Republican operative close to the campaign.
Sen. Kamala Harris: Trump was impressed by Harris' massive crowd for her announcement event, according to White House aides.
- Some of Trump's advisers view Harris as a major threat because it's obvious to them that Trump hasn't figured out how to talk about her.
- He's given her no nickname and has yet to even test-drive a line of attack.
- A Trump adviser told Axios: "It's going [to be] hard for the president to attack her and debate her," because Democrats could cast attacks as racist and sexist.
- The other side: Several aides question whether she has enough experience and can sustain the momentum she'll need.
Beto O’Rourke: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox Business last week that Republicans shouldn't underestimate O'Rourke. That view is shared by a number of people in Trump’s inner circle.
- "I have personally been very concerned about Beto for quite some time," a Trump campaign adviser said. "He seems to generate that liberal grassroots energy without being particularly in-your-face with his points of view. And he's charismatic."
- If O'Rourke were the nominee, he would also force the White House to spend a lot of money in Texas, which isn't the plan.
- The other side: Others close to Trump think the only reason O'Rourke was so successful in his Senate campaign is "because Sen. Ted Cruz ran a bad race," per the GOP operative.
The runners up: Several aides close to the president said Sen. Bernie Sanders shouldn’t be discounted as a formidable contender. "He is to the left what Trump was to the right in 2016,” Tamasi said.
- And while no one on the campaign thinks Elizabeth Warren could secure the Democratic nomination, some said she’s high on their radar because they see her as a great campaigner and her jabs often get under Trump's skin.
- "She can still do some damage," a former White House official said.
Statement from Kayleigh McEnany, press secretary for the Trump campaign:
- "It doesn’t matter who emerges from the Democrat convention in 2020, because that candidate will be beat up, low on funds, without a national operation, and saddled with the socialist policy positions demanded by the extreme left of their party."