Trump feared Democrats would replace Biden with Michelle Obama, book claims

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP</span>
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Donald Trump called Joe Biden a “mental retard” during the 2020 election, a new book says, but was reluctant to attack him too strongly for fear the Democrats would replace him with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama.

Related: Trump teases 2024 run but legal threat rises as investigations ramp up

Biden went on to beat Trump by more than 7m in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump deemed a landslide when it was in his favour against Clinton in 2016.

Trump refused to accept defeat, pushing the lie that it was the result of electoral fraud. The lie resulted in the deadly Capitol attack of 6 January, by a mob Trump told to “fight like hell”, and a second impeachment. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection and remains eligible to run for office.

He tops polls of Republican nominees for 2024 and has returned to public speaking. On Monday, Forbes reported a planned tour with the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who left the network amid claims of sexual misconduct.

Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, by Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal, will be published in August. Trump was among interviewees for the book. Vanity Fair published an excerpt on Monday.

Previous revelations include that the Fox News host Sean Hannity, who was censured for campaigning with Trump, wrote an ad for the Trump campaign.

Bender writes that Trump interrupted a White House meeting to ask: “How am I losing in the polls to a mental retard?”

The idea Democrats would replace Biden reportedly came from Dick Morris, a former adviser to Bill Clinton who has migrated rightwards and who was informally advising Trump.

“Dick Morris told Trump that Biden was too old and too prone to gaffes to be the nominee,” Bender writes.

Biden was 78 when he became the oldest president ever sworn in. Trump turns 75 next week.

Bender adds that Trump believed his attacks on the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren early in the Democratic primary were too successful. Trump gave Warren a racist nickname, Pocahontas, based on her claim to Native American ancestry.

Thinking Warren would have been an easier opponent, Bender writes, Trump fretted to aides that Democrats would “realise [Biden is] old, and they’re going to give it to somebody else. They’re going to give it to Hillary, or they’re going to give it to Michelle Obama.”

Trump reportedly feared Democrats would move to replace Biden at their convention.

According to widespread reporting, Trump’s fears about Clinton were not entirely without justification. Clinton did consider jumping into a race in which Biden struggled before surging to victory.

According to Battle for the Soul by Edward-Isaac Dovere, released last month, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state “would muse aloud sometimes” about taking the nomination at a contested convention.

Michelle Obama, however, never expressed interest. The former first lady remains hugely popular with the Democratic base but has repeatedly ruled out a career in frontline politics.

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