Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) There’s far less Trump bashing than you might imagine in the opening round of the 2020 presidential race, particularly from the lips of Democratic candidates who are trying something unusual: barely mentioning his name.
President Donald Trump is an around-the-clock, all-consuming presence in American politics.
“We have got to understand this is not about him, it’s about us,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told voters here during a weekend South Carolina visit, where he spoke for more than an hour without so much as a mere mention of the name Trump.
Whether referring to the President as “him” or “that person in the White House,” Booker is trying to leave Trump out of the conversation, so he and his Democratic rivals can introduce themselves — and define their young candidacies — on their own terms.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has been on the receiving end of Trump’s mocking and name calling, told CNN that “you never let bullies run over you.”
“If you are a Democrat or if you’re leaning Democratic, chances are you’ve already come to a pretty definitive set of conclusions about Donald Trump,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, a Democratic political action committee.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who calls out the President by name more than any Democratic rival and repeatedly did so during his weekend announcement rallies in Brooklyn and Chicago, also reminded supporters the campaign should be about something far bigger than Trump.
Campaign advisers tell CNN they want voters to remember positive attributes and ideas from their candidates — not just how cleverly they’ve constructed their Trump criticism.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg says all candidates fantasize about standing on the debate stage with Trump and firing off zingers, but it’s far more productive for Democrats to tell voters what they would do for them.
Voters say they are searching for a candidate who can strike a balance between being a healer and a fighter, while offering a vision about life after Trump in the White House.
But after more than two years of bashing Trump at such a fevered pitch, whether at marches across the country or simply in conversation, the absence of his name at Democratic campaign rallies is striking.
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