Oct 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Air Force One log: Obama, Trump outflew Biden in midterms

Data: Brendan J. Doherty and Mark Knoller, Axios research; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: Brendan J. Doherty and Mark Knoller, Axios research; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

President Biden has trimmed his own wings, flying less for domestic political purposes — and hosting fewer out-of-town fundraisers — than his two most recent predecessors in corresponding midterm cycles, according to data analyzed by Axios.

Why it matters: Air Force One can confer unrivaled advantages for sitting presidents looking to take center stage, drive local news coverage and raise money for their parties or targeted candidates all at once.

  • Biden's tour schedule has been hobbled by his own COVID-19 double-bout and underwater job ratings, which arguably made him as much a liability as an asset to Democratic candidates in some battleground races.

By the numbers: In the first nine months of 2010, then-President Obama visited 78 cities, holding fundraisers in 16 of them, according to data compiled by Brendan Doherty, a U.S. Naval Academy professor and author of "The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign."

  • In the first three quarters of 2018, then-President Trump hit 57 cities and squeezed in some 27 fundraisers.
  • Through Sept. 30 this year, Biden has traveled to 47 cities, where he’s held 11 fundraisers, according to data gathered by Mark Knoller, a former CBS radio correspondent.

Zoom in: Many of Biden’s trips have been to friendly coastal cities, like Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. He's also visited swing states including Michigan and Ohio, where he's been eager to tout his manufacturing message.

What they're saying: "The president has made historic investments in the different [Democratic fundraising] committees ... to make sure we keep the Senate and House," White House director of political strategy and outreach Emmy Ruiz told Axios, pointing also to Biden's virtual efforts.

  • "We are out there and the president is front and center and we’ll see in a few weeks, the pace is going to pick up."

Flashback: Obama and Trump both racked up the frequent flier miles in the last six weeks of the campaign season that followed their respective first years in office.

  • During those spans, Trump rallied in 26 cities and Obama headlined rallies in 14 cities.
  • Despite their efforts, each lost control of the House.

What's next: Biden plans to travel to New York and New Jersey on Thursday to tout his policies and raise money.

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