Former Vice President Joe Biden called President Donald Trump a tool of Wall Street who has “ripped” out the nation’s soul. The author Marianne Williamson accused Trump of exploiting people’s fears. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont cast Trump as a “pathological liar” and a “racist.”
Trump might as well have been gripping a podium of his own last night, so prominently did he figure into the two-hour Democratic debate in Miami. And if a spot onstage had been offered to him, you had a sense he might have grabbed it. Trump was nearly 8,000 miles away from the 2020 Democrats invoking his name, starting a whirlwind day of meetings with foreign leaders in Osaka, Japan. But the scene in Miami was much on his mind. Between meetings with German and Indian leaders, the president made time to tweet about the 10-person debate and later told reporters he had caught a snippet of it on television. Standing beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump mentioned the previous night’s debate with 10 candidates, saying, “It wasn’t very exciting.” Merkel didn’t play along. Listening to Trump’s foray into partisan domestic politics, the German leader stood “stoned-faced,” a pool reporter wrote.
If these first two debates showed anything, though, it’s how tough it will be for Democratic candidates to compete with Trump for attention. Incumbency gives any president an advantage—even more so in Trump’s case. He’s shown he can commandeer news cycles through unexpected policy pronouncements that move markets and rattle nations. Democratic candidates who stay focused on the finer points of U.S. industrial policy risk getting drowned out by the insults and outrages Trump dispenses around the clock. “BORING!” Trump tweeted from Air Force One while watching Wednesday night’s debate.