Politics

2020 Watch: Trump Trots Out ‘One Percent Biden’ and ‘Da Nang Blumenthal’

Democrats ‘got some real beauties going,’ president says mockingly

President Donald Trump and GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, her party’s nominee in a tight Senate race, during a campaign rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, on Monday night. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

“One Percent Biden” and “Da Nang Blumenthal” were introduced. “Pocahontas” was dropped, as usual, to the delight of an arena packed with “Make America Great Again” merchandise-sporting supporters.

President Donald Trump trotted out some new nicknames Monday night at a rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, mocking and criticizing several potential 2020 Democratic presidential nominees during another raucous campaign stop.

There were the usual attacks on Democrats, including Trump’s recent charge that the party wants to grab the House and Senate in order to “take” from his supporters. On Monday night, he told a charged-up crowd that Democratic candidates are hellbent on snatching their Social Security and safety.

[White House Celebrates Trade Pact, Prepares to Sell Congress]

And there were vintage hyperbolic Trump claims, including one to support the latter: He told the audience Democrats want to “flood your streets with criminal aliens.” The line was met with one of the night’s loudest rounds of boos.

Trump Has 3 Prime-Time Rallies This Week. Here's What We're Watching

But the president, ever the showman, looked beyond the tight Senate race for which he was ostensibly there to provide aid to provide a helping hand to GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn in her fight against former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.

“They got some real beauties going,” Trump said as he zeroed in on a handful of the opposition party’s possible 2020 candidates.

“We call him ‘One Percent Biden,’” Trump said mockingly of former Vice President Joe Biden, mocking his failure to gain much traction in his presidential bids. “Until Obama took him off the trash heap, he couldn’t do anything.”

He also tried to ding the former senior senator from Delaware’s intelligence, derisively calling Biden “a real genius.”

Notably, however, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., last week said Biden “would be hard to beat if runs,” adding the former senator “was right about a lot of things” during his time in the Senate.

[How Will Kavanaugh Shape the Midterms?]

Also in Trump’s sights: New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who has been harshly critical of embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Booker has admitted groping a woman as a younger man against her will. (She smacked his hand away before he proceeded to grope her breast, he wrote in a college newspaper essay.)

“Seeing some of the things he wrote when he was young about women,” Trump said, stopping short of describing the incident but urging the audience to “take a look.”

Another Kavanaugh critic is Sen. Richard Blumenthal, whom Trump seems to enjoy criticizing for embellishing his Marine Corps service during the Vietnam War. (Blumenthal indicated he served in areas of conflict, but he did not see combat.)

“He was never in Vietnam,” Trump roared Monday night, charging Blumenthal with “a lie.” And what’s a perceived lie by a political foe without a nickname? Trump dubbed him “Da Nang Blumenthal.”

The crowd cheered. Television cameras caught those seated behind Trump laughing as he trotted out the new moniker.

He also dropped another classic: “Pocahontas” for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (Another possible 2020 Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also often gets the Trump treatment with “Crazy Bernie.” Along with Biden, the two liberal lawmakers would be among the frontrunners should they jump into the 2020 race.

The president used monikers like “Low Energy Jeb” (Jeb Bush), “Lyin’ Ted” (Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas) and “Crooked Hillary” (Hillary Clinton) with shrewd precision during the 2016 campaign. Critics dismiss his many mocking aliases as insulting and beneath the office of the presidency, but the Tuesday night scene showed how he often shrewdly uses them to fire up his conservative base — and plant seeds of doubt about his opponents.

[Check out Roll Call’s inaugural power rankings of Trump’s nicknames.]

But they have some political usefulness, experts say. For one, they fire up his base. And they help him diminish his foes into caricatures.

“These nicknames really work for Trump. They’re not only an attempt to diminish an opponent, they are code words for something else. And they distract people’s attention,” Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, told Roll Call in August. “Trump realizes campaigns, especially for president, aren’t about issues — they’re all about personalities, especially for independent voters.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.