Jul 1, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump's basement campaign

Data: Axios research; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Former President Trump is not campaigning at the pace of previous cycles, preferring to spend most of his days at Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster rather than grip-and-grinning in Iowa and other early primary states.

The big picture: Trump — who enjoys a big lead despite his 2024 rivals doing far more campaign events — has held only one of his signature rallies this year, with his second coming this weekend in South Carolina.

By the numbers: Since announcing his campaign on Nov. 15 last year, Trump has held fewer than 30 in-person campaign events, according to an Axios review.

  • Trump was the first to enter the race last November, but has only held four events in Iowa, five in New Hampshire, two in South Carolina, and zero in the state of Nevada.
  • Since February when Trump’s rivals began entering the race through June 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held 55 events, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley held 59, Sen. Tim Scott held 36, and Vivek Ramaswamy held 102.

Zoom in: Top Trump campaign officials have said part of the reason he is not holding many rallies is because they are expensive.

  • "People are always 'what about the rallies? why don't you want to do rallies.' First of all, rallies are half a million bucks a pop," senior Trump campaign aide Chris LaCivita told the conservative podcast Ruthless in late June.

Trump is also being taken off the trail by his legal issues and his younger rivals can likely keep up a tougher schedule than the 77-year-old former president.

  • The 44-year-old DeSantis in particular has tried to draw attention to his busy campaign schedule as an implicit contrast to both Biden and Trump.
  • "DeSantis is everywhere, and he has promised that he will have a likewise energetic approach as president," his spokesperson told reporters in early June.

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung dismissed the idea that other candidates were campaigning harder than the former president as a "really, really ignorant take."

  • Cheung added that Trump has "done large events/rallies and more intimate, messaging events. He's done interviews with national, state, local, and weekly outlets," along with radio, podcasts, and town halls on CNN and Fox News. "He’s held a bunch of off the record meetings with reporters and writers. He’s filmed over 100 policy and messaging videos."

Between the lines: Axios asked the top polling candidates who have been in the race the longest— Scott, Haley, DeSantis, and Ramaswamy — for a list of their public-facing events.

  • Fundraisers, media interviews, or official Senate or gubernatorial duties were not included.
  • Axios discarded any events that could not be independently verified.

Iowa:

  • Trump: 4
  • DeSantis: 10
  • Haley: 17
  • Scott: 17
  • Ramaswamy: 40

New Hampshire:

  • Trump: 5
  • DeSantis: 7
  • Haley: 23
  • Scott: 6
  • Ramaswamy: 26

Nevada:

  • Trump: 0
  • DeSantis: 3
  • Haley: 0
  • Scott: 0
  • Ramaswamy: 0

South Carolina:

  • Trump: 2
  • DeSantis: 6
  • Haley: 6
  • Scott: 10
  • Ramaswamy: 10

Reality check: Trump may not need to campaign nearly as hard as his rivals to win the nomination.

  • He continues to have a dominant lead in early state and national polls.
  • Trump's polling lead has increased even as other candidates are upping their campaign travel the past few months.
  • Trump could also ramp up his campaigning closer to the contests as he did in the closing weeks of the 2020 campaign, which almost closed his large deficit against Biden.
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