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After Trump Attack on ‘Socialist Budget,’ Biden and Biden’s Friends Explore ways to Defend Themselves

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President Trump on Thursday pinned President Barack Obama on a standard socialist budget before taking the next step to implicitly call out Mr. Biden, the expected Democratic nominee in 2020.

“On the socialist budget @BarackObama passed last year,” Mr. Trump tweeted, “he and Joe Biden’s plan is 3 times as big as @realDonaldTrump’s plan – but you don’t see any results.”

On the socialist budget @BarackObama passed last year, he and Joe Biden’s plan is 3 times as big as @realDonaldTrump’s plan – but you don’t see any results. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2016

Mr. Trump’s attack brought predictable responses from progressive politicians and groups, as well as a far-ranging critique from Mr. Biden’s longtime friend and top congressional aide, Steve Ricchetti.

Mr. Biden has not come out definitively against socialism, but in recent years he has quietly dropped references to it and espoused a large tax increase on the rich, which he says is the only realistic path to more government spending.

The onetime vice president has also previously supported a small Medicare-for-all plan for universal coverage of all Americans.

Several observers, including me, had speculated that Mr. Trump might try to use the term “socialism” — the use of the word is protected under the First Amendment — for internal political reasons as he seeks to create a negative dynamic with Democrats before the 2020 election. But Mr. Trump’s tweets have an undeniable political purpose, and seemed unlikely to fool the public or Democrats in the 2020 election.

“I can’t believe he just said that word. What?” Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, said Thursday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” when asked about the president’s use of the term. “I don’t get the value in that word.”

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