President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s allies see reasons to worry about the rise of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.), who is gaining steadily in Democratic primary polls and attracting huge crowds of supporters to her campaign rallies.
The Hill interviewed more than a half-dozen current or former advisers to Trump, and about half viewed Warren as the most formidable nominee in a head-to-head match-up against Trump, while the other half described former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE as the tougher general election foe.
To many Trump World insiders, Warren increasingly looks like the candidate with the best shot at winning the nomination. The two most recent surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire show Warren edging Biden, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) fading into the pack.
The Trump allies who view Warren as the strongest general election Democrat described her as a “movement” candidate with crossover appeal between the left and the center.
They said Warren’s message fits the moment and view her potential candidacy as a wild card, believing that Trump would fare better in a rematch against an establishment candidate, such as Biden.
“She has a populist streak to match Trump that I think would make her tougher to beat than a lot of people realize,” said one prominent GOP consultant. “I think her ideology fits the moment, and that scares me as a Republican.”
Trump World remains mostly bullish on the president’s reelection prospects, even as polls show Biden, Warren and Sanders leading in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups.
Trump’s allies say those polls will tighten once the campaign can focus its resources and attacks on one individual candidate. They believe the eventual Democratic nominee will have moved too far to the left to win in a general election and that the economy will carry Trump to a second term in office.
And not everyone views Warren as a strong general election candidate.
“Please let the nominee be Elizabeth Warren,” said Eric Beach, the founder and co-chairman of Great America PAC, one of the largest outside groups supporting Trump’s reelection campaign.
Beach said Warren is an unpalatable option for independents and “Never Trump” Republicans seeking an alternative to the president.
He believes the controversy around Warren’s past claims of Native American heritage is more damaging than people realize and will play into Trump’s argument that coastal elites — Warren is a former Harvard professor — are hypocrites and opportunists.
Warren initially released the results of a DNA test she said backed up her Native American ancestry claims, but later apologized after tribal leaders said such a test was inappropriate.
“We’ve been holding back on attacking her in hopes that she’s the nominee, so I’m pleased to see that she’s gaining steam,” Beach said. “We’d be more than happy to face her. She’s spent her life gaming the very system that she is now railing against and we will have ads that drive that point home on every front.”
Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, predicted Democrats will lose the center if they nominate a left-leaning candidate like Warren.
“Some of these issues, like reparations for gay people, these are mind numbing things for voters in Youngstown, Ohio,” said Bennett. “It might win her the primary, but it also makes her the easiest candidate to defeat in the general election.”
And one administration official told The Hill that the best match-up Trump could hope for is against a policy wonk such as Warren.
“We’ve seen what he does against the cerebral, policy-focused candidates,” the official said. “He’d blow her out of the water.”
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Still, several in Trump’s orbit said they’re worried about the prospect of going up against a “movement” candidate and an unknown quantity on the national stage, saying that they at least know how to attack Biden and what to expect from him.
“With a movement candidate like Warren, you’re running against something that is completely unpredictable,” said one former campaign aide. “The electorate she could bring out would be unlike anything we’ve seen before or could prepare for. It would be a dramatically different race.”
And Trump World is on alert over the energy that has grown around Warren’s campaign.
The president has tweeted dismissively about Warren’s crowds, but some of his allies view Warren’s rallies as an indication of the grassroots support and enthusiasm around her campaign.
“She has crossover appeal between mainstream Democrats and the progressive base where the energy is,” said a former White House official. “That’s a formidable place to be, so I think on the whole, Trump would rather face Biden.”
Indeed, many in Trump World view Biden as a weakened front-runner who will not be able to match Trump’s strength or stamina on the campaign trail.
They say Biden has appeared confused and slow on the Democratic debate stage and believe Trump would destroy him in a one-on-one debate.
“The more attention he has on him on a daily basis, the worse it is for him,” said the Republican consultant. “So I’d prefer Biden sneak out of this with a deflated base. That’s the dream.”
Still, several Trump allies continue to view Biden as the toughest opponent in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. If the entire 2016 electoral map stays the same but Democrats win back those three states, they’ll reclaim the White House.
Trump’s allies say that an election between Biden and Trump would be nasty, and they fear that Biden might be the lone contender running who could match Trump for personal attacks. The fighting between the two is already growing in intensity as House Democrats launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump for allegedly urging the Ukrainian government to investigate the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
Trump World is also hopeful that the Democratic primary continues to drag Biden to the left, believing that, for the time being at least, he has more mainstream appeal than the left-leaning candidates.
“He hasn’t gone as far to the left as Warren has,” said the administration official. “He’s still gotten out there, but it’s harder to characterize him as a complete radical. And the contest between Biden and Trump wouldn’t be even remotely policy based. It would be personal. That would make for some great prime-time television, but it would also present a unique challenge for the president.”