Do nice guys finish last in presidential races? Joe Biden hopes not

By Francesca Chambers and Alex Roarty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON - Joe Biden's campaign has taken pains to describe the Democratic nominee as a caring and altogether decent man.

President Donald Trump's team doesn't spend a second portraying its candidate as warm and fuzzy.

In an election weighted with historical significance, do voters care how nice of a guy a candidate for president is?

The Biden campaign says the character-focused effort - evident in their TV ads and high-profile speeches - is an essential part of an overall strategy to make voters feel more comfortable with a former vice president whose life story was still relatively unknown before the race began. Only then, Democrats say, will voters be convinced about his pledges to take on the big issues of the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery.

"There is a relative dearth of knowledge about him, both who he is and what he plans to do," said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. "So you have to fill in both parts."

In Trumpworld, it's an approach that misses the point entirely in a race in which voters are preoccupied with fears about their wealth, health and safety.


"We're electing a president. We're not electing a guy who you want to go hang out and drink beers with," said Rick Gorka, the spokesman for the Republican National Committee's joint effort with Trump's campaign.

The president's all-caps tweets and tendency to launch personal attacks against his critics often chafe members of his own party. But rather than deny that Trump can be abrasive, his campaign has incorporated his conduct into its messaging on the president's efforts to renegotiate international trade deals and repeated clashes he's had with foreign leaders.

"Nice guys don't get those things done," Gorka said. "Nice guys allow those things to happen, because they're trying to place nice in the sandbox."

Biden's team has leaned into painting the candidate as a moral and empathetic person in the final stretch of the 2020 race. At last month's Democratic National Convention, speaker after speaker - including some Republicans - testified to Biden's character, including a video highlighting his friendship with the late Sen. John McCain.


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