Republicans step up personal attacks on Biden and his family

President Joe Biden’s family history has long been one of his greatest strengths politically. Republicans are beginning to think they can make it a liability.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had no shortage of issues he attacked Biden on — immigration, the military, or “woke” politics. But speaking to a group of Republicans about parental rights in Tennessee last weekend, he made it more personal.

“Why don’t you spend some time with your granddaughter in Arkansas, or at least acknowledge her existence before you start worrying about our children?” said DeSantis.

He also has tweeted a jab to Biden on the issue on Friday.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also made that attack on Thursday when she spoke about her call for mental capacity testing of presidents and joked that they should include a question about “how many grandchildren you have”.

The 2024 presidential candidates referred to the child fathered by the president’s son, Hunter, and a woman named Lunden Roberts. Hunter Biden, who described his relationship with Roberts as a fling as he struggled with addiction, recently settled a high-profile paternity case with Roberts in an Arkansas court.

But in recent comments, the president did not count the child among his grandchildren, making him the target of criticism and the subject of continued conservative media coverage.

NBC News contacted the White House, the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee. All declined to comment on this piece.

The Bidens’ attacks on their family are nothing new. Just this week, Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene held up nude photos of Hunter Biden during a House Oversight Committee hearing.

The fact that they have now turned to the presidential campaign and focused on this young girl and her role in the Biden family underscores how deeply Republicans are addressing a deeply personal issue for the president — and that is not going away. Republicans say it reveals the president’s true colors and exposes the hypocrisy of a president who has made family a central tenet of his political persona.

“It goes against the narrative he’s trying to create. He talks about being such a good family man, how he calls all his grandkids, how he loves his family, how he’s a devout Catholic,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview. “And yet, that does not bode well. And what’s weird is that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Hunter Biden initially denied being the child’s father, but in court papers Roberts said a paternity test “established with scientific certainty” that he was. Hunter Biden recently settled the paternity case with Roberts, who withdrew his request for his daughter to take Biden’s name. The settlement includes child support, a college fund and an undisclosed number of Hunter Biden paintings, which have come under scrutiny as they have fetched up to $500,000 each.

The president himself often speaks publicly about his grandchildren and has said he talks about his close relationship with them.

“I have six grandkids and I’m crazy about them,” Biden said at a Take Your Kid to Work Day event at the White House in April. “I talk to them every day.”

The question of whether the president should recognize the grandchild has also been the subject of conservative talk shows and news boards. Last week, Fox News’ Sean Hannity sent a reporter to Batesville, Ark., whose entire report involved asking people on the streets what they thought about Biden’s granddaughter and the president “refusing to acknowledge her existence.” In a separate report, Fox News cameras lined the entrance to the US Capitol and asked members of Congress whether the president should publicly count the girl among his grandchildren.

A deeply reported front-page story in The New York Times about the granddaughter, followed by a column written by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd titled “It’s Seven Grandchildren, Mr. President,” reinvigorated the conversation.

“The president’s cold shoulder – and heart – goes against every message he’s sent for decades, and it’s out of step with the America he wants to continue to lead,” Dowd wrote.

Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist, said Dowd’s column helped offer Republicans a “road map” on how to attack the president on the issue.

“It’s obviously a low hanging fruit for Republicans to point to as they question the authenticity of Biden’s message,” Bonjean said.

The Republican National Committee has hit out at the president multiple times over the issue, including on social media.

“Biden’s refusal to acknowledge his own granddaughter is heinous and heartbreaking. Biden has no empathy,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said. tweeted July 9.

The band said it wasn’t going to stop.

“Every lie told by Biden, whether he has only six grandchildren or whether his withdrawal from Afghanistan was successful, will haunt his campaign,” RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said in a statement. “Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail will continue to hold this failed and dishonest president accountable.”

It was even as most of the party offered a muted response to GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s many legal troubles, including being convicted of sexual abuse and twice criminally charged with a third case looming.

“It’s really difficult for them to defend. There are a lot of pots that call the black kettle here when it comes to getting in trouble,” Bonjean added. “But I think this is all about Republican primary voters.”

Not all Republicans are on board. Curator Ann Coulter wrote on Substack: “The idea that a crack-fed roller in the hay allows the mother to be treated as an honored member of the family is absurd”.

Focus group guru Frank Luntz, a Republican, framed the criticism as a personalization of politics he couldn’t get on board with. He has heard nothing from voters in his focus groups about the criticism the president faces over the issue of his grandson.

“Nobody cares,” he said.

And an article in The New Republic, a liberal publication, lambasted the press, arguing that Republicans would never be held to the same level: “That’s the real bias of today’s media. It’s an expectation bias, and it always wanes in favor of people you don’t expect anything from in the first place.

“Republicans have lost many of their key attacks on Biden as president. So that means they have to politically develop more attacks on him as a person, as a father or a grandfather, because attacks on him as president become less effective,” said longtime Democratic operative Simon Rosenberg. “I’m not surprised to see more investment or some of this continued obsessive investment from Republicans trying to bring him down as a man and as a father and as a grandfather because that’s basically all they have.”

Rosenberg added: “That’s not going to be enough.”

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