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Radical or moderate? Trump paints Democratic ticket as both

WASHINGTON (AP) — An overzealous prosecutor trying to hide her crime-fighting past — who is also weak on crime. The most radical pick for vice president ever — but too moderate to energize progressive Democrats.

President Donald Trump’s campaign is struggling to define California Sen. Kamala Harris, the newly announced running mate for Democratic rival Joe Biden.

And without a clear message, Trump has reverted to his usual playbook, resorting to sexist and racist attacks. He has repeatedly called Harris “nasty” and has leaned into appeals that appear stuck in a fictionalized version of the 1950s.

“The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me. They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!” he tweeted Wednesday, incorrectly spelling the name of the Democratic senator and former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who is also Black.

Like Biden, Harris has staked out relatively moderate stances over the course of her career on issues such as health care and law enforcement. That’s complicating the Trump campaign’s crude efforts to depict the Democratic ticket as out of step with the country.

With Trump lagging in the polls less than 90 days before the election, his team faces a pivotal choice. Do they attempt to fire up their own base and scare off moderates by painting Biden and Harris as radical socialists? Or do they aim to depress enthusiasm among the Democratic base by arguing Biden and Harris are opportunistic and insufficiently liberal?

Biden and Harris can’t be both. But that hasn’t stopped Trump and his allies from trying to make the incongruous portrayals stick.

“Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party,” senior campaign adviser Katrina Pierson said in the Trump’s campaign’s first statement responding to the news.

During his Fox News program on Tuesday, host Sean Hannity called Harris the “most radical running mate ever.” At the same time as it echoed that messaging, the Republican National Committee also sought to frame her as insufficiently liberal, gleefully declaring: “liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket.”

Some Republicans said the messaging wasn’t coherent.

“So to sum up: Kamala Harris is a cop — who is an anti-police extremist. A radical leftist — who is causing a ‘revolt’ among Bernie voters. A phony — who was too nasty to Joe Biden. Got that?” wrote Tim Miller, who previously served as senior adviser to an anti-Trump political action committee and as an RNC spokesperson.

One Trump campaign official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss strategy said the mixed messages were aimed at different audiences. The campaign is seeking to animate its own supporters against “radicals” and sow apathy among Democrats, the official said.

Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates accused Trump of struggling “in vain attempts to tear the American people apart and distract the country from his devastating mismanagement with clumsy, bigoted lies,” and called him “dumbfounded after Joe Biden’s selection of a strong running mate who he himself said not two weeks ago would be a ‘fine choice.'”

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