President Barack Obama, alongside Vice President Joe Biden, speaks to the media about Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton for the presidency in Washington, D.C. on  Nov. 9, 2016.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

NRSC targets Biden with the message Biden wants people to see

Updated

With half the Democratic presidential field scheduled to participate in a debate this week, it’s not too surprising that Republicans would go on the offensive against the leading contenders. I am curious, though, about the nature of the party’s message.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) on Monday and Tuesday released new attack ads against former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as the three White House contenders cement their status in the Democratic primary field’s top tier.

The ads, released on Facebook, come ahead of the third Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston, which will feature 10 candidates vying for the opportunity to take on President Trump next year. The one targeting Bernie Sanders, for example, tells viewers the Vermont senator would “turn America into a socialist country.” It’s stale, but it’s standard Republican rhetoric.

But this digital ad from the NRSC was a little more surprising. For those who don’t want to click the link, it’s a short, 12-second Facebook ad, with no voice over, featuring straightforward text: “Biden 2020 = 4 More Years of Obama. Or Trump 2020 = 4 More Years of MAGA! Who’s Your Choice?”

Putting aside questions about the percentage of the public that knows that “MAGA” stands for “Make America Great Again,” suggesting that a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for four more years of Barack Obama is a curious pitch.

For one thing, Obama is the nation’s most popular and most admired political figure. I haven’t seen any recent polling on this, but I suspect that if the public were given a choice between four more years of Obama and four more years of Trump, the former would enjoy a significant advantage over the latter.

For another, the NRSC is effectively endorsing Biden’s 2020 pitch. Not to put too fine a point on this, but the former vice president would love voters to see him as offering “four more years of Obama.” The Delaware Democrat doesn’t see that as a criticism; he sees it as a central pillar of his campaign’s message.

All of which raises a couple of possibilities: either the National Republican Senatorial Committee doesn’t fully appreciate the extent of Obama’s popularity, or the NRSC wants to help Joe Biden.