As Biden visits swing states, Trump is fundraising and playing golf

As President Joe Biden visited five cities in a multiday trip last week, former President Donald Trump was hardly seen in public, spending most of his time in South Florida.

Trump has held just a single public campaign event since he locked up the Republican presidential nomination on March 12: a rally in Ohio funded not by his campaign but by backers of a Senate candidate whom he had endorsed. The events page on his campaign website has had nothing listed.

Biden, meanwhile, has been barnstorming the country. After a trip to North Carolina on Tuesday, the Democratic president will have touched down in all of the 2024 swing states in the less than three weeks since his State of the Union address.

The differing approaches reflect the deficits each side is facing.

Trump’s campaign faces a serious money shortfall and mounting legal bills as he fights four criminal indictments. His focus in recent weeks has been on wooing potential donors as his campaign builds its infrastructure across battleground states to catch up to Democrats, who have a significant head start.

For Biden, 81, the tempo is a message in and of itself as he aims to combat persistent voter concerns about his age. Whoever wins in November will be the oldest president to be inaugurated, though polls find that voters see the issue as more pressing for Biden. Trump is 77.

Both sides are projecting confidence and accusing the other of trying to hide its candidate’s problems.

Biden’s team is trying to sell the public on his accomplishments as concerns persist that voters are unaware of what he’s done in office and are instead focused on frustrations over high grocery costs and concerns about the sharp rise in illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We have not been talking to folks about the issues that President Biden has been delivering on,” said Yolanda Bejarano, the state Democratic chairwoman in Arizona, where Biden campaigned last week. “That’s what we are determined to do.”

His aides have packaged his campaign stops with official White House events designed to promote his policy agenda and legislative achievements.

Trump has been spending his days in and around his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida — fundraising, hosting elected officials who frequently visit, and meeting aides.

But Trump has also made time for other pursuits. He recently said he won two championships at his Palm Beach golf club, writing on his social media site that they were “very exciting” wins on a “GREAT and difficult course.” He visited his golf club in West Palm Beach on Sunday to accept two trophies from a cheering audience.

Trump faces a slew of pressing legal challenges. That includes a Monday deadline to pay more than $454 million in fines and interest. If Trump doesn’t come up with the money, New York’s attorney general could start the process of seizing his assets.

Instead of his signature large rallies, aides say, Trump has been attending fundraising events five to six days a week. That includes lunches and dinners that bring in immediate cash as well as relationship-building meetings that could result in future checks.

On Thursday, his super political action committee held a $100,000-per-person roundtable with Hispanic leaders at his golf club in Doral, Florida, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

Not holding events also saves the campaign cash it does not have to waste. Trump’s rallies cost “half a million a pop,” Trump senior advisor Chris LaCivita said in a podcast interview last year.

Federal campaign finance filings released last week showed Trump’s political operation at a serious disadvantage and struggling to catch up to Biden and the Democratic Party, which raised $53 million last month and ended February with $155 million cash on hand.

Trump’s campaign and his Save America political action committee, two key groups in his political operation, reported raising a combined $15.9 million in February and ended the month with more than $37 million on hand.

The empty public calendar is also a reflection of scheduling changes. Trump had been planning to spend much of the next six weeks in court at his New York hush money trial, which was supposed to begin Monday. That trial has since been postponed, forcing the campaign to readjust. (Trump is expected to attend a Monday hearing.)

But even without public events, the developments in Trump’s legal cases as well as a steady stream of inflammatory statements — like his assertion that Jews who vote for Democrats hate their religion and Israel — ensure he dominates news cycles.

That assertion came in one of a series of interviews he has done with friendly broadcasters since becoming his party’s presumptive nominee, including a sit-down with right-wing British leader Nigel Farage.

Some allies of the former president argue that holding fewer rallies helps him not only by saving money but by limiting opportunities for him to go off-script and say something that might alienate swing voters.

The campaign, however, rejected that thinking and said it has no intention of running the kind of “basement campaign” that Trump aides assailed Biden for running in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump flouted the guidance of his own government’s public health experts on social distancing and mask wearing, holding rallies and White House events before vaccines were available, like a reception for his Supreme Court nominee that became a superspreader event.

Biden has also brought in tens of millions of dollars for his campaign in recent weeks. On Thursday, he’ll raise even more at a joint event with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in New York that may break party fundraising records for a single event.

Otherwise, he has been favoring smaller, more intimate events — joining a family for a meal at their kitchen table, popping into small businesses and meeting supporters in backyards.

Like Trump’s, his campaign questions the value of expensive-to-produce rallies this far from Election Day. And there are real concerns about his ability to fill a room given still-flagging Democratic enthusiasm as well as the protests he faces from voters angry over his support for Israel’s war against Hamas.

The smaller events are designed to produce short social media moments that resonate with Biden’s target voters online and reach audiences that would probably miss more conventional campaign stops.

Last week, he met several dozen supporters in Reno, Nevada, center of the state’s sole swing county, before heading to south-central Phoenix, where he mingled with about 80 people at a storied Mexican restaurant as his campaign launched a coalition called “Latinos con Biden-Harris,” or “Latinos with Biden-Harris.”

“I need you badly, I need the help,” Biden told them. “Look, there’s only about six or seven states that are going to determine the outcome of this election. They’re toss-up states, and this is one of them.”

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