This month, Trumpland—the name I give to the key figures in and around the White House, campaign structure, and Trump-friendly media—launched into a new phase of the message-setting for the 2020 campaign.

That included significant ad campaigns that debuted in a few key battleground states; a new mobile app; nightly online talk-show style programming; Biden-attack web sites; and real-time social media rapid response during Joe Biden events.

Trumpland’s research, rapid-response, and digital production teams are undeniably adept, and far ahead of Biden’s.

Those teams stretch across several incestuous organizations. It includes the White House communications team, whose new press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, was previously a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee (RNC). The RNC itself is a major part of the structure, along with the Trump re-election campaign committee, and America First, the “official” Trump Super PAC.

Other political action committees, including the opposition research firm America Rising, play a role, as do a number of conservative media and think tank figures, who are in close contact with Trump and his core group of strategists. Beyond that are a host of more peripherally connected individuals and entities, who serve as ampliiers.

Some of their efforts tout President Donald Trump’s accomplishments, or defend him from criticism. But the vast majority is focused on attacking Biden.
The messaging machine is fast, slick, and professional. What it is not is focused.

Typically, campaigns narrow their attacks on two or three broad themes about the opponent. While necessarily reactive and opportunistic, campaigns try to avoid getting drawn into fights that don’t contribute to those central arguments.

No such message discipline constrains Trumpland. Multiple differing attacks on Biden—some arguably contradictory, but mostly just unrelated or non-complementary—spew simultaneously, and with equal volume, from the core messengers.

The effect so far seems to be preventing any of the messages from taking hold beyond Trump’s most loyal base. Tara Reade’s allegations briefly amplified the topic of Biden’s behavior with women, but that thread was quickly lost among an attempt to link his China policies to a renewed blame on that country for the coronavirus pandemic, and charges that Biden was part of some “Obamagate” conspiracy involving the unmasking of Michael Flynn in intelligence reports.

Perhaps this is just a temporary “see what sticks” phase, with the best-performing attacks earning a place in the campaign’s later, more focused attempts to define the Democratic nominee.

For now, it’s a muddled mess.

Top ten themes

Here is a non-exhaustive, though somewhat exhausting list of major Biden-attack themes coming directly from major Trumpland figures, just since the launching of the new campaign phase in early May:

1. He’s “Sleepy”. It remains unclear to me what this is supposed to mean exactly, but it is clearly important to the picture Trump wants to paint of his opponent. Whereas other members of Trumpland reach for more applicable nicknames at times—Beijing Biden when accusing him of ties to China, for instance—Trump himself sticks with Sleepy Joe, using it in at least a dozen tweets this month.

2. He’s senile. This has been the most common meme on Trumpland accounts, bolstered by a deep well of Biden gaffes, mis-statements, and odd physical cues. There is little subtlety to it. America First spokesperson Steve Guest has tweeted that Biden is “a boxer who no longer belongs in the ring.” Trump himself said in a recent interview that Biden “has absolutely no idea what’s happening” and “doesn’t know he’s alive.” New Trump campaign Facebook ads show a series of Biden clips with a caption of “geriatric health is no laughing matter.”

3. He’s soft on China. As Trump pivoted to blaming China for all COVID-19 woes, Trumpland began attacking Biden as a friend of the enemy. America Firstand the Trump campaign both have new ads casting Biden as a life-long supporter of trade with China, at the expense of American workers. Neither spot mentions anything about corruption or Biden’s son Hunter, but you will find those tenuous allegations at America First’s Beijing Biden web site, touted as “the troubling reason Biden is so soft on China.” And according to, the RNC made robocalls to Pennsylvania voters claiming that Hunter Biden “made $80,000 per month from China in the months leading up to the coronavirus outbreak.”

4. He’s corrupt via his son Hunter. In addition to the China-related allegations, Republicans continue to hope for political paydirt in Hunter Biden’s role in the Ukraine firm Burisma. During the impeachment hearings, Republicans claimed that Joe Biden was the real villain, having allegedly tried to protect Hunter by forcing the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor. Last Monday, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted out a supposedly damning audio of a 2016 conversation between Joe Biden and Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko, and on Tuesday Trump reportedly pressured Senate Republicans to get moving on delayed hearings. The next day, Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security Committee authorized a subpoena for Burisma-related testimony.

5. He was corrupt in the Obama administration. Obamagate is just one piece of what Trump claims was the most corrupt administration in American history. Lack of evidence notwithstanding, Trumpland is now actively trying to tie Biden to this wide-ranging array of alleged sins. According to a tweet from ”top RNC spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington, the category of intelligence misuse alone includes “fraudulent FISA warrants; using Hillary/DNC-funded dossier…; leaking intelligence; [and] spying on political opponents.”

6. He’s a serial groper. The Tara Reade accusations have failed to have much impact, perhaps in part because of Trumpland’s scattered focus. But it continues, as part of broader insinuations of inappropriate behavior by “Creepy Joe.” The gifs and memes on the topic are plentiful.

7. He’s a pedophile. Donald Jr. upped the ante on Creepy Joe by posting a meme on Instagram calling Biden a pedophile. He later claimed it was a joke. Then, in the middle of the controversy over that, Eric Trump tweeted a poll—later deleted—asking “Would you trust Joe Biden to drive your child to school?” The Trump campaign War Room account followed up with a gif of Biden nuzzling a girl.

8. He’s a lifetime creature of The Swamp. Biden certainly provides an ample target for this time-tested “career politician” attack theme. RNC research director Joe Ascioti recently sent a series of tweets on this theme, including the factoid that as U.S. Senator “Biden served with multiple people born in the 1800s!” A new 30-second Trump campaign spot paints Biden as a “do-nothing career politician” who has spent “more than 40 years in Washington.”

9. He’s beholden to socialists. Biden’s reputation as a relative centrist can make it difficult to sell people as a committed Marxist. So, a separate line of attack claims that he has sold out to Bernie Sanders and other party extremists as the price for his nomination. That was the response from Trumpland when Biden named Alexandria Ocasio-Ortiz co-chair of his campaign task force on climate change. You also see the charged term “appease” a lot, as when America First tweeted the other day, in regards to Biden’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, that “Biden would rather appease the socialist wing of the Democratic Party than protect American jobs.” A post at last Thursday titled “How Biden Could Become The Most Liberal President In Modern U.S. History” sent Trumpland into a messaging blitz.

10. He’s the real racist. This charge had gone quiet for a while, but was triggered this past Friday morning. Biden, appearing on The Breakfast Club radio show with Charlamagne Tha God, said that “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” The Trumpland messaging machine went into overdrive immediately, tying it to “a history of racial condescension” and unloading the opposition research file of Biden’s racially problematic statements and actions.