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Trump likes to call people losers. Now Biden's using the insult on him

President Biden speaks during a campaign event in Blue Bell, Pa. — his first campaign speech of 2024 — where he made a point of calling former President Donald Trump a "loser."
Drew Angerer
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Getty Images
President Biden speaks during a campaign event in Blue Bell, Pa. — his first campaign speech of 2024 — where he made a point of calling former President Donald Trump a "loser."

When former President Donald Trump has beef with someone, it's almost inevitable he will call that person a "loser" or a "stone cold loser."

Now, President Biden is turning one of his predecessor's favorite insults against him, using his first two campaign speeches of the year to pointedly label Trump a loser.

"Losers are taught to concede when they lose," Biden said on Monday, noting that Trump violated a basic principle of American democracy by refusing to concede the 2020 election. "And he's a loser."

The South Carolina audience broke out into laughter and applause — just as a Pennsylvania crowd did a few days earlier after Biden discussed Trump's failed efforts to challenge the election results in court.

"The legal path just took Trump back to the truth — that I had won the election, and he was a loser," said Biden.

Biden and his campaign expect Trump to win the Republican nominating contest, which kicks off Monday in Iowa. A core part of Biden's campaign strategy is to call out Trump for the threat he poses to democracy. Trump's lies about the election being stolen drove the January 6th insurrection.

But long before that, Trump revealed at a 2019 rally how he felt about being associated with losing. "I never want to be called a loser," Trump said.

A sign supporting Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump a house in Ogden, Iowa on Jan. 12, ahead of the Republican presidential caucuses.
Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images
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Getty Images
A sign supporting Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump a house in Ogden, Iowa on Jan. 12, ahead of the Republican presidential caucuses.

Christie called Trump a loser, too. Then he dropped out of the race

Biden's not the first political opponent to call Trump a loser. It was a feature of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's campaign for the Republican primary.

"He is a three-time loser," Christie said in a Fox News interview over the summer, referring to the 2020 election, and the midterms in 2018 and 2022 where Trump-backed candidates did poorly. "We don't want to have a four-time loser."

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Jan. 10 that he was dropping out of the Republican presidential primary race at a New Hampshire event.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP
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AP
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Jan. 10 that he was dropping out of the Republican presidential primary race at a New Hampshire event.

In the end, it was Christie who lost. He dropped out of the race earlier this week.

Calling Trump a loser "hurts his brand," said Mike DuHaime, a political consultant who has long advised Christie. "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."

DuHaime conceded that Trump continues to maintain a winning brand despite a long line of losses both in politics and business. But he said there's another reason Christie deployed the insult.

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

The former president has not publicly responded to Biden's loser taunt — though he did falsely say that Biden stuttered in his first speech, and mocked him.

President Biden speaks at a campaign event at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 8, 2024.
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks at a campaign event at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 8, 2024.

So why is Biden borrowing Trump's favorite insult?

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.

"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," said Michael Tyler, the campaign's communications director.

When asked directly whether it was "a troll," Tyler smiled. "It's simply the truth," he said.
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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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.