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Biden is using one of Trump's insults — 'loser' — against him


President Biden and his campaign expect former President Donald Trump to win the Republican nominating contest, which kicks off Monday in Iowa. And in Biden's opening salvo against his predecessor, he made a point of turning one of Trump's favorite insults against him. NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: If former President Trump has beef with someone, it's almost inevitably he'll call that person...



KEITH: ...Or...


TRUMP: A stone cold loser.

KEITH: For Trump, it seems there is no bigger insult to hurl.


TRUMP: I think the guys are losing.

All losers.

They're losers. He's really surrounded by losers.

And it's done by, you know, frankly, losers.

Because he's a loser. He's out.

KEITH: So it was notable when, in his first campaign speech of this election year, President Biden went there as he was discussing Trump's efforts to challenge the 2020 election results in court.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: But the legal path just took Trump back to the truth that I'd won the election and he was a loser.

KEITH: Earlier this week, Biden did it again.


BIDEN: And losers are taught to concede when they lose. And he's a loser.

KEITH: A core part of Biden's campaign strategy is to call out Trump for threats he poses to democracy. Trump has refused to admit that he lost the 2020 election. His lies about it drove the January 6 insurrection. But long before that, Trump revealed at a rally how he felt about being associated with losing.


TRUMP: I never want to be called a loser. Remember this. We all together, we - I - we ran one time, and we're 1-0. But it was for the big one.

KEITH: Biden's not the first to call Trump a loser. It was a feature of former new Jersey Governor Chris Christie's campaign. Here he was on Fox News.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: But why is Joe Biden sitting in the White House? He's sitting in the white House because he beat Donald Trump in 2020, another in the string of losing that Donald Trump has led us to. He's a three-time loser, and we don't want to have a four-time loser.

KEITH: In the end, it was Christie who lost. He dropped out of the race earlier this week. But there was a political strategy behind calling Trump a loser, says Christie adviser Mike Duhaime.

MIKE DUHAIME: It hurts his brand. Part of the reason that he gets support is because he's seen as a winner. And when you can actually chip away at that, it hurts his brand.

KEITH: But does it really work? Duhaime points out Trump continues to maintain a winning brand despite a long line of losses in both politics and business. But he said there's another reason Christie deployed the insult.

DUHAIME: It just drives him crazy. And when people tell him he's a loser, it hurts. He also knows it's true, so it hurts even more at times.

KEITH: Trump has not publicly responded to Biden's loser taunt. I asked Biden's campaign why the president borrowed his predecessor's favorite insult. Michael Tyler is the campaign's communications director.

MICHAEL TYLER: So it may be a point of pain for him, but it's a point of truth for the United States of America and our American democracy.

KEITH: And is it a troll?

TYLER: It's simply the truth.

KEITH: Schoolyard taunts aren't really part of Biden's brand, but in a campaign where some voters may have forgotten the chaos that ensued when Trump tried to overturn the results of the election, using the word loser is another way to remind them. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.