Why Trump’s Efforts to Paint Biden as a Socialist Are Not Working

A barrage of attacks trying to link the Democratic nominee to policies like Medicare for All aren’t hurting him, polls show, as many of the policies remain popular with most Americans.

By Jim Tankersley

WASHINGTON — President Trump delivered a familiar warning at his rally on Tuesday night, telling supporters that his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his allies would turn America into a socialist state if given the chance.

“Biden has made a corrupt bargain in exchange for his party’s nomination,” Mr. Trump said. “He has handed control to the socialists and Marxists and left-wing extremists like his vice-presidential candidate.”

The lines were a riff on one of Mr. Trump’s favorite attacks on Mr. Biden — and an illustration of its limits. Despite repeated efforts on Twitter, on a debate stage and in speeches, Mr. Trump has failed to convince voters that Mr. Biden is a socialist.

In the closing days of his campaign, he has shifted to telling voters that Mr. Biden is instead a pawn of socialists and that his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, is “a communist.” In an address to several civic economic clubs from the Rose Garden on Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the election “a choice between a socialist nightmare and the American dream.”

A wide range of polls, including some conducted for nonpartisan media outlets and for conservative and liberal interest groups, shows that Mr. Trump has so far been unsuccessful in lashing Mr. Biden to policy proposals like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and a federal tax on the net worth of high-wealth Americans, all of which Democratic voters and leaders have increasingly embraced in recent years, but which Mr. Biden has stopped short of adopting in his platform.

Evidence also suggests the socialist label does not necessarily carry as much negative weight as Mr. Trump assumed. When pollsters ask Mr. Biden’s critics to name their concerns about him, “socialism” ranks low on the list.

“It’s a word that people bring up more now. It doesn’t mean that it has an impact,” said Margie Omero, a principal at the Democratic polling firm GBAO, which has polled for progressive groups this year but is not working for Mr. Biden’s campaign. “If Trump’s attacks worked, he would be doing better. But he’s not.”

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