Updated Apr 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

2024's split screen: Feisty Biden on the road, fuming Trump in court

Side by side picture of Trump and Biden

Left: President Biden speaks at a campaign event in Philadelphia on April 18. Right: Former President Trump in court on Friday. Photos: Bloomberg/Getty

The split screen of the 2024 presidential campaign was never more evident than it was Friday:

  • There was President Biden, having a friendly interview with Howard Stern after another week of campaigning and raising money in some of America's wealthiest Zip codes.
  • A few miles from Stern's Manhattan studio there was a grim former President Trump, sitting in what he calls a "cold" courtroom as a former tabloid editor testified in Trump's criminal trial.

Why it matters: Money is crucial in politics. So is time. And right now, in a tight presidential race, Biden has more of both.

  • Trump is crying foul, complaining that his trial is keeping him off the campaign trail — though when he had a day off from court on Wednesday, he played golf, according to CNN.

Driving the news: Biden seems to be taunting Trump and his predicament.

  • "I haven't had a chance to watch the court proceedings because I've been campaigning," he told donors Thursday at the Westchester, N.Y., home of actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
  • Biden's stop by Stern's show Friday seemed to be another jab at Trump — Stern was Trump's go-to host for crude talk in the 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Biden also cleared up any questions about his being willing to debate Trump. "I don't know when, but I am happy to debate him," Biden said.

Zoom out: While Trump sits through what's expected to be several more weeks of his felony trial in the hush-money case, Biden is using Air Force One to visit key states he'll need to win in November.

  • He's highlighting his support for abortion rights (and Trump's bragging about helping to abolish Roe v. Wade), while touting the economic benefits of his signature legislative programs.
  • Trump, meanwhile, hasn't held a campaign rally since his trial began in mid-April. Bad weather canceled a planned event in North Carolina last weekend.
  • Trump does hope to hit Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, the one weekday when his trial isn't in session.
Presidential candidates' visits to select swing&nbspstates
Data: Axios research and candidate campaigns; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

By the numbers: In the last two weeks, Trump has been in court for eight days while Biden spent three days in Pennsylvania, along with visits to Virginia, Florida and New York.

  • This year, Biden has made a total of 19 trips to the six swing states likely to determine the election — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — according to a review of travel records by Axios.
  • Trump has made 12 trips to those states. He's made 16 court appearances in D.C., Florida and New York — many of which were voluntary, unlike his current trial.

What they're saying: Trump is openly frustrated by his courtroom obligations, regularly complaining to the cameras outside court that his trial is preventing him from hitting the road and rallying his supporters.

  • "I should be right now in Pennsylvania and Florida — in many other states, North Carolina, Georgia — campaigning," Trump told reporters last week.

Before court Thursday morning, he did some pretrial politicking in a surprise stop at a Midtown Manhattan construction site.

  • "I have a lot of support here," said Trump — who had argued in the media that he couldn't get a fair trial in New York because there would be too many Democrats on the jury.

Biden's team has relished how the split screen is cutting at the Trump campaign's portrayal of the 81-year-old Biden as "Sleepy Joe," noting reports — disputed by Trump's team — that Trump, 77, has appeared to doze off a couple of times in court.

  • "Donald Trump can't seem to wake up to the very basics of running a winning campaign: You have to get out there, meet with voters, and build a broad, diverse coalition," Biden spokesperson James Singer said.
  • "He can't keep up with President Biden and our campaign as we criss-cross the nation talking to voters ... and focusing on the issues voters care about."

Reality check: Despite Trump's troubles, he's led Biden in most national and swing-state polls — though Biden's numbers have been ticking up, to a small lead in some recent surveys.

  • Biden and his top advisers think that polls will continue to drift his way as Americans start to follow the election more closely and reckon with what a second Trump presidency could bring.
  • "People are beginning to listen," Biden said Tuesday in Tampa. "This is a time people begin to focus and listen."
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