Presidents Crisscrossing New York Create a Stark Split-Screen

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and Donald Trump will be mere miles apart from each other this week in Manhattan, but the backdrops couldn’t be more stark: the presumptive Republican nominee sitting in a dingy courtroom and the current commander-in-chief attending fundraisers with New York City’s elite.

Most Read from Bloomberg

The disparate split-screen highlights the benefits of incumbency. Biden will make a stop in Syracuse, New York, on Thursday to unveil $13.6 billion in semiconductor investments, a key part of his White House’s jobs message, before boarding Air Force One for campaign events in New York City and the surrounding suburbs that evening and Friday.

Trump began his Thursday with a campaign stop at a midtown Manhattan construction site where he met with construction workers and criticized Biden’s labor and economic policies.

He then made his way to a downtown courthouse for the eighth day of his criminal trial involving hush-money payments to a porn actress. He could be hit with fines or other admonishments from the judge for violating a gag order by disparaging witnesses involved in the case.

But Biden’s advantages only go so far. The president’s visit to Manhattan comes as Columbia University, an Ivy League school, is engulfed by student-led protests against the Israel—Hamas war. Biden is not scheduled to visit the university, but it’s likely anti-Israel protesters could follow him to other stops in the city, as they have done repeatedly since the war began in October.

Ivy League Demonstrations

Demonstrators at Columbia were filmed yelling antisemitic slogans and taking Israeli flags from counter-protesters. Biden this week condemned the protests, which sparked further backlash from opponents of Israel’s war and raised more questions about his standing with young voters.

The political and legal challenges confronting the respective nominees have kept it a close race. Trump leads Biden in six of seven swing states, according to a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday, with the difference between the candidates in three battlegrounds within the margin of error. The poll also showed support among swing-state voters for Israel aid has plummeted in recent months.

Earlier: Voter Support for US Aid to Israel Plummets as Outrage Grows

Rising anger over Biden’s support for Israel among young and progressive voters poses an acute danger to his reelection campaign. That’s especially true among Arab and Muslim voters in Michigan, a battleground state Biden won in 2020 that makes up part of the “Blue Wall” crucial for Democrats to win the White House.

The protests have also divided Democrats in Congress, with progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lauding the demonstrations at Columbia, Yale and Berkeley on Monday, while Representative Tom Suozzi, a moderate who just won a special election in a Long Island swing district, went to Columbia’s campus that same day to show support for Jewish students.

Biden campaign officials have said they don’t see the protest fallout imperiling the president’s chances of winning a second term. They have said the demonstrators represent a small, yet vocal, segment of young voters and that the war is not the decisive issue for most in their age group.

Young Americans support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza by a five-to-one margin, but just 2% said it was the issue that concerns them the most, according to a Harvard Institute of Politics youth survey taken last month. Biden held a two percentage point lead over Trump in Michigan, according to the Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll.

Political Calculations

Further distancing himself from Israel could create problems for Biden in other battlegrounds like Pennsylvania, where Jewish voters outnumbered Muslim voters by nearly two to one in 2020.

Read More: Defendant Trump Hits the Campaign Trail in Ways Old and New

Biden’s delicate political balance between maintaining support for Israel and ratcheting down tensions with pro-Palestinian groups has given his opponents an opening to criticize him. Trump admonished the protesters and told reporters on Tuesday that Biden was to blame for the ongoing conflicts at home and abroad. He also threatened to seize the endowments of schools that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

House Speaker Mike Johnson escalated Republican criticism of the protests, paying a visit to Columbia’s campus on Wednesday and calling for the resignation of the university’s president, Minouche Shafik.

“My intention is to call President Biden after we leave here and share with him what we have seen with our own two eyes and demand that he take action,” Johnson told reporters at a press conference on the school’s campus. “If this is not contained quickly and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard.”

--With assistance from Michelle Jamrisko and Hadriana Lowenkron.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.