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Trump's 'extraordinary preoccupation' with Biden isn't subtle

Donald Trump talks about Joe Biden nearly every day, but late on Friday night, the president published a tweet that was a little different than most.

Shortly before midnight, Trump highlighted an item from the Washington Examiner's Byron York showing Biden's lead in the Democratic race dwindling and questioning whether the former vice president should still be seen as the frontrunner for his party's 2020 nomination. The president found this worthy of mockery.

It was a quick peek into the president's perspective: Trump isn't just peddling bogus corruption allegations against his would-be challenger; the Republican also considers it important to let the public know about Biden's poll advantages relative to his 2020 rivals.

Two weeks ago, Politico reported on Trump's "extraordinary preoccupation" with the Delaware Democrat, which led the president to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help go after Biden. It led to a follow-up report that probably didn't receive as much attention as it probably deserved.

President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is preparing an avalanche of TV ads targeting Joe Biden in early primary states -- its most aggressive step yet to meddle in the Democratic nomination contest.Starting this weekend, the reelection effort will air over $1 million in anti-Biden commercials in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada, according to two people familiar with the move. The spots focus on Trump's claim that the former vice president and his son engaged in corruption in Ukraine.

It matters, of course, that Team Trump's attacks are false. But taking a step back, it's the circumstances that struck me as astonishing: I'm not aware of any incumbent president who's ever made a seven-figure ad buy targeting a rival party's candidate several months before the primaries even begin.

The same day as we learned about the $1 million anti-Biden ad campaign, Trump stood on the South Lawn of the White House and urged China and Ukraine to go after the Democratic candidate. A few days later, Trump encouraged Biden to quit the race.

There's no modern parallel for a sitting president appearing so publicly panicked about a possible rival, at least not this early in the election cycle.

At a certain level, the anxiety is rooted in quantitative fact. CNN's Harry Enten recently noted that he doesn't expect Biden to be the Democratic nominee, but the political analyst added, "I'm not sure folks appreciate how unusual Biden holding a 10+ pt lead on Trump is at this point. No incumbent since at least WWII was down by anything close to that at this point."

And that, by all appearances, drove Trump to abuse the powers of his office and open the door to his impeachment.