Former President Donald Trump has made mocking President Joe Biden and questioning his mental fitness for office a core part of his campaign speeches – even as he experiences his own recent series of gaffes and verbal slips on the campaign trail.
“He’s always looking around, where do I go?” Trump said as he did an exaggerated impersonation of Biden walking around the stage looking confused at a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last month.
Weeks later, Trump took the stage in Sioux City, Iowa, and mistakenly thanked supporters for coming out to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before an Iowa state senator tried to discreetly correct him — a moment that was caught on a hot mic.
During a summit in Washington, DC, Trump claimed that Biden could “plunge the world into World War II” – which ended nearly 80 years ago – and appeared to confuse Biden and former President Barack Obama, saying he was leading Obama in election polls.
The recent missteps have created an unwelcome wrinkle for Trump, his campaign team and the larger Republican political apparatus. Republicans have questioned whether Biden is able to serve as commander-in-chief, pointing to his age and mental fitness. But their own primary front-runner seems to be suffering the same predicament, making their argument less potent.
Trump incorrectly said Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, was the prime minister of Turkey – he quickly corrected that error. He has repeatedly mispronounced Hamas (huh-maas), the name of the Palestinian militant group that launched a deadly terror attack on Israel, as hummus.
And, during a rally in South Carolina in September, Trump confused former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of Trump’s 2016 GOP rivals, with his brother, former President George W. Bush
“When I came here, everyone thought Bush was going to win,” he said at that rally.
“They thought Bush because Bush supposedly was a military person… he got us into the, uh, he got us into the Middle East. How did that work out, right?”
Trump’s rivals have been working to capitalize on his latest set of unnecessary errors, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose presidential campaign has largely stalled under a barrage of attacks from the former president
“This is a different Donald Trump than 2015 and ’16 — lost the zip on his fastball,” he told reporters in New Hampshire in late October. “He is wedded to the teleprompter. He can’t get off that teleprompter. Anytime he does, he says things like ‘don’t vote.’ He’s telling people not to vote, like, we have all the votes.”
DeSantis’ campaign also launched a “Trump accident tracker” recently to highlight the former president’s missteps.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has seen a slight boost in recent poll numbers, appeared to take a jab at the former president over Trump’s foreign policy comments.
“Well, I’ve said it before. With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley said at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition last week.
The Democratic National Committee has gone out of its way to jump on Trump over the missteps. On its account on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, the committee reposted a screenshot of an MSNBC chyron that said “MSNBC: Trump’s gaffes appear to be getting more incoherent.” The committee has also highlighted a clip of Trump struggling to complete a sentence about terrorism. Another post featured the clip of Trump mispronouncing Hamas.
Biden’s reelection campaign, too, is seeking to draw attention to Trump’s gaffes, clipping the moments and promoting them on social media.
Publicly and privately, some Republican strategists are skeptical how effective this strategy will be. After all, Trump has previously boasted that he could go out to Fifth Avenue, shoot someone, and only see his support increase and gone on to win an election. His supporters know how old he is; their critique of Biden is that while Trump is a unusually spry 77, while Biden is a very weary 80 year old.
“President Trump continues to dominate in primary polls and is winning against Crooked Joe Biden in the general election,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement. “None of these false narratives Team Biden has tried use to deflect from their own candidate’s failures have changed the dynamics of the race at all because people know President Trump is the strongest candidate. The contrast is that Biden falling on stage, mumbling his way through a speech, being confused on where to walk, and tripping on the steps of Air Force One.”
Despite the relatively small age gap between Biden and Trump – about three and a half years – there is a wide difference in how voters view the two figures.
In a recent NBC News poll, 59% of voters said they had major concerns about Biden not having the necessary mental and physical health to be president for another term. That compared with 34% of voters who had major concerns about Trump.
The attacks by Trump aren’t just brunt jabs at Biden’s age. Trump, who is only three years younger than Biden, said in a recent interview he didn’t think the president was too old to run for reelection.
“No, he’s not too old at all, he’s grossly incompetent,” Trump said in a recent interview with Megyn Kelly on her eponymously named show on Sirius XM.
Instead of attacking Biden directly over his age, Trump instead tries to paint Biden as “incompetent,” and “cognitively impaired,” which he argues is not solely about the president’s age.
“I have many friends in their 80s … Age is interesting because some people are very sharp and some people do lose it,” Trump told Kelly.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com