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As Trump goes on trial, Biden goes to Pennsylvania


WASHINGTON — While President Donald Trump is in his hometown of New York this week for the start of his criminal trial on charges of falsifying business records, President Biden plans to campaign in his birthplace of Scranton in battleground Pennsylvania. 

Biden’s counterprogramming itinerary includes three days of economy-focused events in Scranton, Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia area, while his campaign keeps a spotlight on Trump’s position on abortion.

The result will be dueling visuals of the two candidates that Biden allies hope speak volumes to voters even as the president stays silent about his GOP rival’s legal troubles.   

“We’re really just kind of leaving it alone,” a Biden aide said of Trump’s trial beginning this week.

Biden’s campaign speech in Scranton on Tuesday pivots off Tax Day on Monday, Biden aides said. They said the president will argue that Trump, if elected, would provide tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class. 

“We think Trump is pretty vulnerable on that,” one Biden aide said. 

But it’s the differences between the two candidates on abortion that the Biden team sees as a decisive factor that could put him over the top in November’s election, according to Biden allies.

“The campaign thinks the abortion issue is the margin of victory they need,” one Biden ally said. 

Nearly all of the ads the Biden campaign is currently airing mention abortion, according to a campaign official.

Biden’s team also moved more quickly than usual this past week to respond to Trump’s comments on abortion.  

On Monday, when Trump said the issue should be left to the states and took credit for the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, Biden carved out time in his schedule that morning at an uncharacteristically early hour to pre-record a response that would be ready to go. 

“You don’t get Joe Biden’s time that early,” one campaign official said to emphasize how important the issue is to the president. 

After Trump said Friday that “we broke Roe v. Wade” and the decision to leave the issue to states is working “very brilliantly,” Vice President Kamala Harris swiftly added a response to her pre-planned campaign speech in Arizona on the heels of the state’s Supreme Court ruling that a near-total ban on abortion from 1864 is enforceable. 

Now, Biden’s team is planning out how to mark Florida’s six-week abortion ban going into effect in the next few weeks, according to a Biden aide. The aide said voters also will hear more directly from the president on abortion, with statements and events. 

Harris has been the most vocal member of the administration on abortion, a strategy that’s expected to continue

While Biden aides are determined to make sure Trump fails in any effort to moderate or carve out a murky position on abortion now that he faces a general electorate, they also want to try to put the former president on the defensive over economic issues as he’s preoccupied. 

Biden’s campaign has long believed the most effective strategy against Trump is to only focus on him as a candidate for president, not as a candidate at the center of a legal drama. Biden aides say that won’t change this week, even with the expectation of blanket media coverage of the start of the first of several potential trials Trump will face. 

“The contrast that President Biden will drive is that he’s got your back, and if that is the message that breaks through that’s what moves the needle,” a Democratic strategist close to the White House said. “And he’s helped profoundly by the fact that Donald Trump is in court defending himself.”

Not all Biden allies agree with the silent approach to Trump’s criminal trial. 

“It’s outdated thinking to rely on these old norms and recycled cliches of communicating like “don’t give it oxygen” or “stay out of the way” while an opponent self-implodes,” another Democratic strategist said. “Biden should go on offense, engage, and preempt the Trump circus.”

Former President Donald Trump Travels To Atlanta, Georgia
Jury selection in Trump’s trial in New York is set to begin Monday.Megan Varner / Getty Images

Trump’s New York trial is expected to last between six to eight weeks. He is required to attend in person every weekday except Wednesdays, when the trial won’t be held. Trump campaign officials have said the former president plans to hold rallies and campaign events on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

In the runup to the start of the trial, the Trump campaign has been fundraising off his legal troubles, warning in a text message to supporters on Saturday that “in 48 hours, AMERICA WILL CEASE TO EXIST.” 

While in Scranton, Biden will revive a major economic argument of the 2020 campaign — that he is focused on the needs of Americans like those in Scranton while Trump is trying to deliver for those who can afford to live on Park Avenue in Manhattan. During a town-hall style event near Scranton in the closing weeks of the 2020 campaign, Biden argued that “guys like Trump, who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited are the people I’ve always had a problem with.”

On Tuesday he’ll highlight measures in his 2025 budget proposal that the White House says would benefit the middle class, such as raising taxes on billionaires, according to the Biden aides.

To underscore his point, the Biden aides said he is expected to again highlight Trump’s telling donors at a recent private dinner that he’ll keep their taxes low

The president will deliver different versions of that message during his other stops in what he and his campaign see as potentially the lynchpin state in the 2024 election. Pennsylvania, as well as Wisconsin and Michigan — Democrats’ so-called blue wall — helped put Biden over the 270-electoral vote threshold four years ago. 

“It’s all about the blue wall,” a Biden campaign official said. “If we can’t win those states, we lose.” 

After Tuesday’s event in Scranton, Biden will hold an official White House event focused on manufacturing in the Pittsburgh area, which the president has long seen as the home base for his union-focused economic policy. He’ll end the week with a campaign event in the Philadelphia area, a place that has often been where he focuses on what he believes is at stake for American democracy in November.


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