Trump campaign hopes Biden stays in race as ex-president changes tone

Donald Trump hailed Joe Biden as his most dangerous rival in a speech on Friday, in what some see as a bid to stave off having the president replaced with a more formidable opponent.

At a rally in Virginia on Friday, Trump revelled in the criticism of President Biden’s shambolic performance in the first presidential debate, seeing it as acknowledgement of his victory.

Donald Trump exceeded expectations at the CNN TV debate – Elijah Nouvelage/UPI/Shutterstock

He mocked the president’s apparent overpreparation for the event, saying, “He studied so hard that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing.”

But the Republican candidate also peppered his speech with compliments to President Biden, saying he was a better debater and more popular than any alternative.

“It’s hard to believe, but Crooked Joe Biden polls better than those people,” he said.

“They wouldn’t have done any better” in the debate, he added. “No one else would have been better.”

Joe Biden at the dreadful debate

Joe Biden had a dreadful debate – Brian Snyder/Reuters

Referring to California Governor Gavin Newsom, Trump said: “He can’t run California, he’s one of the worst governors. He’s a bad governor, he can’t run California. People are leaving. One of the most beautiful places on earth.”

“He’s got lousy poll numbers and you take a look at some of the others,” said Trump, adding that Vice-President Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michele Obama poll badly as potential candidates too.

Trump’s speech appeared to reflect the concerns of some of his campaign advisers, one of whom told NBC that President Biden’s poor debate performance was “the sum of all my fears” in that it might force him out of the race.

A few weeks ago Trump had made the contrasting statement that he doubted Mr Biden would even still be running come election time.

President Trump in front of Old Glory

Donald Trump attends a rally a day after his debate triumph – Steve Helber/AP

“He has no clue, he doesn’t, if you look at him, he doesn’t know where he is,” Trump told WABC 770 AM. “You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.”

“And I doubt he will even be running frankly, I just can’t even imagine it,” he added.

He went on to say on Friday that President Biden’s apparent lack of mental acuity was not age related. “It’s not his age, it’s his competence,” he said.

Observers believe that Trump and his team’s attempts to now downplay Mr Biden’s age is a move by his campaign to avoid him facing a younger, more electable candidate.

“Democrats are in absolute disarray,” Trump adviser Brian Hughes told NBC News.

“They fear that they might have made a terrible mistake. I hope that no one lets them off the hook. If they think they can just walk away from Joe Biden, it would be a level of dishonesty that they should be called out on.”

Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump campaign adviser, told the broadcaster, “Biden’s not going anywhere.”

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