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Trump’s ‘Sleepy Joe’ nickname for Biden isn’t working. Even Trump knows it

Even "Sleepy" Joe Biden is on track to win the presidency.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Among the things President Trump seems to pride himself on is branding his opponents with some devastating nicknames.

This should not be news to anyone even casually paying attention. From “low-energy Jeb” Bush to “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz in the 2016 Republican primary to “Crooked Hillary” Clinton in the general election, Trump has continued the mocking nicknames through his presidency. There is even a long Wikipedia page devoted to tracking all of the monikers.

But his nickname for Joe Biden, “Sleepy Joe”, just doesn’t seem to be effective in bringing him down. Biden is up double digits in national polling and leading in six important swing states, which would easily make Biden the next president. Of course, there’s a lot more behind those polls than an ineffective nickname.


That said, the polls have caused Trump apparently to rethink the Biden nickname, at least according to the Washington Post, which reported he is considering changing Biden’s nickname. The options? “Swampy Joe,” “Creepy Joe,” and “Corrupt Joe.”

A Pew Research Poll this week may have proven just how tired the “Sleepy Joe” name is politically. The poll found that among registered voters nationwide, Trump has a 16-point advantage over Biden in the quality of being “energetic.” Yet, the same voters gave Biden had a 10-point lead in terms of whom they would vote for.

In other words: voters accept the “Sleepy Joe” premise, but still prefer him over Trump.

How much these nicknames matter at all is up for debate. But the term “sleepy” doesn’t particularly mean a whole lot. In fact, “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd” might have more impact because being energetic matters a lot on television. (Then again, Todd’s “Meet the Press” has topped Sunday political show ratings throughout the Trump presidency.)

Among the potential new names Trump is considering, “Swampy Joe” is the most interesting.


Given Biden’s over four decades in Washington and Trump’s less than four years there, it’s conceivable Trump could still run as the “outsider candidate” even though he is the incumbent.

And Biden is right out of central casting as a creature of Washington. First elected in 1972, he served continuously in federal office until 2017. Sure, he took the train home every night to Delaware when he was in the Senate, but that’s a long time in the swamp.

“Swampy” also fits the narrative that Trump is trying to create around Hunter Biden’s dealings, painting the former vice president’s son as cashing in on his father’s access and power.

Biden isn’t running away from the Washington label, but running on his Washington experience and that he can return the country back to normal. By using “Swampy Joe,” Trump can try to use what Biden sees as positive and make it a negative.

As for Biden, he once toyed in interviews with coming up with a Trump nickname, but he never really used one.

If the polls hold, he will probably just prefer to call Trump “former president.”

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.