• Team Trump is trying to use their successful 2016 strategy again in 2020
  • Polling revealed plan not as effective against Biden as it was against Clinton
  • Clear to Trump's campaign that a different strategy to beat Biden is needed

President Donald Trump has a secret wish. He has told confidants that he wished Joe Biden would drop out and Hillary Clinton would take his place, as his campaign has begun to realize that their successful strategy from the 2016 election has not translated to 2020. The Daily Beast reported that Trump privately joked how great it would be if Clinton would have to step in, "so that he could beat her harder than he did last time around.”

President Trump’s 2016 strategy centered on highlighting Clinton scandals, both real and imagined, in an attempt to distract from his own scandals and muddy the waters between the two. It worked, as voters who disliked both candidates broke hard for Trump in 2016. So far, Joe Biden enjoys an advantage amongst those voters in the 2020 race, and team Trump’s attempts to tie him to Clinton have not manifested themselves in polling despite repeated attempts, like this from Trump’s campaign manager.

Acknowledging the effectiveness of Trump’s attacks on Clinton, a senior Biden adviser told The Daily Beast: “Joe Biden’s not Hillary Clinton, thank God.” A senior Trump administration official confirmed Trump’s reported wishes in private, telling The Daily Beast that “It would be nice, for sure, if we were running against a replica of Hillary. But only Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton.”

GettyImages-Trump and Hillary
Donald Trump, now President and Republican presidential nominee in 2016 with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the Presidential Debate in Hofstra University on September 26, 2016, Hempstead, New York. Hillary Clinton has said that even if she may not be in the fray for 2020 polls, she will not be silent and fight Trump’s policies. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Recent weeks have brought new attempts to tar the former Vice President as corrupt, as Trump has tried to coin the term “Obamagate” to describe a scandal involving Biden. Trump, however, has yet to detail the scandal. Congressional Republicans have pushed subpoenas seeking to investigate a Ukrainian firm where Biden’s son sat on the board, but all of this conjecture has yet to produce a single substantive allegation.

While it is curious that Hunter Biden could join the board of a Ukrainian energy company the same year he was discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine, no piece of evidence has emerged to tie any malfeasance to Joe Biden.

Team Trump’s inability to get the Ukraine allegations to stick, or to successfully paint Biden as “China’s puppet,” or the early vagaries of so-called “Obamagate” proves that the 2016 strategy that worked so well for him does not directly translate to 2020. The reasons are unclear, but the fact that Trump is struggling amongst the disenchanted voters he won in 2016 while Biden enjoys a lead in both public and private polling is proof that in order to win reelection, Trump will have to pursue a different strategy than the one that carried him to the presidency.