- President Joe Biden continues to prove difficult for Republicans to attack.
- Several recent purported scandals that dominated right-wing media have been easily debunked.
- Attacks on Biden are not sticking like they did for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
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Ever since the 2020 campaign, Republicans have struggled to land the same kinds of attacks on Joe Biden that worked on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
In recent weeks, a series of purported scandals have bubbled up in the conservative media ecosystem only to be quickly washed away.
President Biden’s age, race, and gender all insulate him from the kinds of caricatures that Obama and Clinton found themselves portrayed under.
Disciplined messaging from the White House and limited opportunities for Biden to speak extemporaneously have left a vacuum to be filled.
From “Hidin’ Biden” to a burger ban
As Insider’s John Dorman recently reported, Republicans have admitted they are having a hard time landing attacks on Biden, who enjoys healthy approval ratings as he moves past the 100 day mark of his presidency.
Although there have been plenty of policy proposals, legislation, and executive orders for Republican to seize upon, most of the action in conservative media has centered around culture war outrage stories.
Because Biden has been limited yet strategic in his public appearances, his longstanding penchant for gaffes has not been as much of a problem as some pundits imagined. Unlike during the Trump administration, Biden White House staffers have largely steered clear of leaks and the public infighting that consumed so much of Trump’s orbit, as Politico reported last week.
Filling that gap, three easily debunked stories made their way last week from the conservative blogosphere to Fox News.
The first ended with Fox News later correcting a segment on Biden limiting red-meat consumption, which he has no plans to do.
The other two were false stories about Vice President Kamala Harris’ children’s book being put in “welcome packs” for migrant children at a Department of Health and Human Services shelter in Long Beach, California, and the other was about Virginia eliminating advanced math courses to promote “equity,” even though the state wasn’t eliminating any advanced classes for kids.
Republican attacks on Biden during the campaign were similarly unsuccessful.
Former President Donald Trump popularized the “Hidin’ Biden” nickname, which he pivoted to during Biden’s so-called basement campaign amid the pandemic. “Sleepy Joe” didn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Crooked Hillary.”
Then came the cognitive decline attacks, which backfired by setting expectations inordinately low for any Biden public speaking appearance.
Last Friday, both Fox News and the Fox Business network featured stories on Biden struggling to find his mask at a recent event in Georgia, marking one of the only returns to the cognitive decline line of attack since the debates.
-Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 30, 2021
The fact that Biden – a Washington veteran of more than four decades – has been able to keep all of these purported scandals from sticking to him says less about his record than where Republicans are looking.
Cancel culture wars are at the center of the conversation on the right as policy takes a backseat.
Biden has taken heat from across political ideologies on his handling of immigration and refugees seeking asylum, but his low support among voters on immigration has not bled too far into his overall approval ratings yet.
Somewhat ironically, the same week all of these debunked scandals were coming from conservative media many prominent Republicans were at an actual policy retreat in Florida.
For a president looking to enact a sweeping agenda and keep the drama to a minimum, Biden’s ability to keep these stories from sticking not only saves him time, but also reveals what a precarious place the GOP has found itself in with messaging post-Trump.