Trump’s Trial Is Already Wreaking Havoc on His Campaign

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

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This week, we take an early look at just how much Donald Trump’s Manhattan trial is derailing his campaign. Plus, an exclusive interview with New Jersey Senate candidate Andy Kim and new polling on a win-win issue for President Biden.


Even before Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York began, it was clear that the lengthy and demanding proceedings would fundamentally change his 2024 campaign.

But it only took a few days to show that Trump’s hush money trial will be even more damaging, more constraining, and more significant than anyone expected.

The headlines alone told the story. During the trial’s opening week, for instance, Trump arguably drew the most attention for appearing to fall asleep in the courtroom.

Trump’s Trial Now Has 12 Jurors—and One Angry Man

On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported he was forced to decline an appearance at a big-money fundraiser in Texas for the House GOP because of the trial schedule, an early glimpse at just how much his party leadership will be limited.

And what did happen in court indicated that the trial could drag on even longer than the initial expectation of a two-month timeline—making stunts like Trump’s visit to a Harlem bodega on Tuesday even more likely as the campaign trail sits largely out of reach.

Taken together, Republicans are left with little more than stopgap solutions and, in some cases, a humbling realization of what’s to come—given that the embarrassing details of his alleged plot to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels are yet to emerge.

“I had sort of underestimated just the giant time-suck this is going to be for him as a candidate,” Alex Conant, a GOP strategist and a top aide on Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign told The Daily Beast.

Crucially, it’s not just time, but money, being left on the table as the hush money case drags on.

“He could be raising six, seven figures pretty regularly at major-dollar events around the country at this point,” Conant said. “That’s literally what Biden is doing. So Trump’s fundraisers are probably frustrated that because he’s in New York, they can’t schedule that stuff.”

Donald Trump holds papers outside of Manhattan Criminal Court

Donald Trump speaks with attorney Todd Blanche at the end of the day as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 18, 2024 in New York City.

Jabin Botsford/Getty Images

Republicans around the Trump campaign are resigning themselves to the new reality of a nominee stuck in court while his rival, President Joe Biden, has the trail largely to himself.

“President Trump’s campaign strategy is obviously going to be a little bit different,” a Trumpworld consultant told The Daily Beast, “but he’s going to put in the energy and time needed to win this election.”

In searching for a silver lining, Trump operatives are resorting to leaning heavily on the old adage that all publicity is good publicity.

As another Trump-aligned GOP strategist put it, at least “he’s getting more earned media than Biden. It’s just wall-to-wall coverage of Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.”

Yet the Biden campaign doesn’t want to be out front every day competing with Trump for eyeballs over the trial. Instead, the Biden team is looking to silently troll Trump by avoiding direct mentions of the case in favor of blitzing the battleground states to strike a contrast with his record on issues like taxes and abortion.

The Biden Camp Has a Plan for Trump’s Trial: Silent Trolling

The split screen highlights what Trump’s biggest loss may ultimately be whenever the trial ends.

“The most valuable commodity in any campaign is the candidate’s time,” Conant said. “It’s the only thing you can’t get more of. And the fact that he’s going to have to spend weeks in the courtroom is time his campaign isn’t going to get back.”

The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment.

After months of holding a lead against Biden in national and battleground state polling—something Trump didn’t enjoy during his runs in 2016 or 2020—the polls have tightened, and Republicans are still coming to grips with how constrained Trump will be for at least the next six to eight weeks, or longer.

Now that the Manhattan trial is underway, Trumpworld is left looking for makeshift alternatives and desperately waiting for something—the prosecution, the optics, anything—to turn public opinion against Democrats. The strategy turns on a cynical assumption: that voters will believe the prosecution from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is designed to harm Trump and has the blessing of Biden and Democratic leaders.

“We’re only at day three now, and I think this is gonna have a backfiring effect on Democrats, I really do,” the Trumpworld consultant insisted. “They are interfering with Trump’s ability to get on his plane and go to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia.”

Although sources around the Trump campaign said losing ground on fundraising is their biggest concern with the trial, they tried to downplay just how bad the situation could get as the former president continues to get badly outraised by Biden and siphons much of his haul to pay his legal bills.

There’s also a lingering worry that Trump’s courthouse steps routine, a core way of communicating during the trial, will become stale. But the Trump-aligned strategist said they’re not worried about that until “you guys”—meaning the political press—stop covering it so closely.

“I don’t think people are gonna get bored of it, man,” the strategist said. “People never know what he’s gonna fuckin’ say.”

Aside from relying on media coverage of the trial to boost small-dollar fundraising—a copy-and-paste strategy from Trump’s civil cases during the GOP primary—the campaign is also looking at ways to make the most out of the fundraising circuit around New York City during the trial.

“He’s gonna be right here in New York, and there’s a lot of big money here. I’ve also heard rumors of fundraisers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, too,” the Trump-aligned strategist said.

The Trump-Biden Race Turns Into a Big-Dollar Cash Scramble

For the Wednesday and weekend portions of the week when Trump won’t have to be in court, the radius broadens slightly, and he could easily hit rallies in nearby swing states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the strategist said. Trump is using his weekend trial break to travel to Wilmington, North Carolina, for a rally on Saturday night.

Early on Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced a late addition to the schedule: a rally in New Jersey on May 11.

Conant likened Trump’s scheduling quandaries to those of a sitting senator running for the presidency. It’s a tradeoff other presidential campaigns have had to deal with before, but unlike missing votes in the Senate, Trump can’t choose to skip court.

“It’s still something every senator who runs for president is challenged by,” Conant said, “and a lot of ’em end up skipping a lot of the votes because your time on the campaign trail is just so valuable.”

A photo of Andy Kim in front of the capitol

Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J.

Tom Williams/Getty Images


A lot has happened since the last time Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) spoke with The Daily Beast.

Less than a month ago, the congressman was locked in a brutal Senate primary battle with New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy, fighting it out county by county. Then, Murphy unexpectedly dropped out, clearing Kim’s path to winning the seat currently held by indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)—though Menendez hasn’t taken himself out of contention quite yet.

New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy Ends Her Senate Campaign

We spoke with Kim to talk about the rapidly shifting race and what comes next.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Trail Mix: How are you feeling now that there have been so many developments in the race with Tammy Murphy dropping out and Bob Menendez saying he's not going to run as a Democrat?

Rep. Andy Kim: Well, I have to say I’m really proud of the grassroots energy and the momentum that we created. The last six months has been the strongest campaign I’ve ever run, and honestly, it’s not just a campaign anymore. It’s become really a movement for better democracy in New Jersey.

TM: Have you spoken with either Tammy or [Gov.] Phil Murphy ever since the dropout announcement?

AK: No, I have not. I spoke with her briefly where she gave me a heads-up that she was going to drop out, but I’ve not talked with her since.

TM: How about her supporters?

AK: Some conversations, but I mean, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not asking anybody to endorse me. If they want to engage, we can have those conversations, but I have my operation, what we’re doing, and we're just pushing it forward. And in particular right now, I think what has made this continuously interesting has been my lawsuit to try to change how we do our elections in New Jersey. And I get it, that’s at odds with how a lot of the county leadership across the state want to engage.

TM: For readers who aren’t familiar, could you describe what’s known as “the machine” and the whole county line system you just referred to there?

AK: I’ve had to answer this question a lot over the last couple months. I find that the best way for me to describe it is that New Jersey does our ballots differently than 49 other states. They have a traditional “office-block ballot” where you have the job that you're seeking with all the candidates grouped together. And it’s very normal, it’s very commonsense.

But in New Jersey, we have a unique and unfair system that allows party leaders to be able to give preferential placement on the ballot for their preferred candidates. And not only that, but they can often have the candidates that they don't support off to the side of the ballot in a way that just really disadvantages them and makes it difficult for voters to even understand and see who’s running for a particular office.

TM: On Sen. Menendez, do you think he’ll run as an independent? What would that race look like?

AK: I have no idea what he’s going to do. I think that I can’t even begin to think through how he’s making decisions right now, so I’m not really sure, but if he does, I’m prepared for it. That’s why I want to make sure I can build up the resources needed to be able to run a statewide race.

TM: With Menendez on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, how has that situation been from your point of view? How big are the risks involved?

AK: I’m on a lot of the foreign policy and national security committees. I come from a previous career in national security. I’ve had a security clearance for this country for nearly half my life. So I take this very seriously.

It is worrisome to me that we have a situation here where Senator Menendez has been indicted for concerns related to his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—in particular, being the chairman of that committee—that concerns me, in terms of his continued access to classified information.


As Biden attempts to broaden his 2024 coalition while keeping his progressive base satisfied, new polling points to a potentially fruitful strategy to help him pull off the balance.

New polling from the left-leaning Blueprint initiative found a rare win-win messaging approach that could help Democrats persuade Nikki Haley voters in particular—a key demographic that Biden and his team want to win over.

It’s not a silver bullet, but Blueprint pollster Evan Roth Smith believes the data show tax policy—the very issue Biden was hammering this week during a visit to Pennsylvania—should be at the top of his campaign’s list of talking points.

How the Biden Campaign Plans to Win Over Nikki Haley Voters

Voters generally view Democrats as a party that raises taxes, Roth Smith said. But Biden could overcome that, the pollster argued, by consistently reminding voters about the Trump tax cuts—his signature legislative accomplishment which benefited the wealthy most of all.

Blueprint found 58 percent of voters think Trump’s tax cuts benefited Americans richer than themselves. That number goes up to 67 percent among college-educated voters and 82 percent of Haley voters.

Reforming the U.S. tax code, Roth Smith explained, is one of the rare ideas with about as much appeal to the center-right portion of the Biden base as the rest of the party. Raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy shores up the president on two key flanks: Haley voters, to his right, and also a broader group of voters who tend not to show up to vote.

Another notable finding from the Blueprint polling was how they tested several of Biden’s economic messages with those from Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Without either candidate being mentioned in the message testing, Blueprint found painting Trump as only looking after the rich “tests at Obama levels,” Roth Smith said. “And if you ask people in the Democratic Party right now, ‘Do we have economic messaging strategies that feel as good as the ones we had during the Obama re-elect?’ The answer is no.”

The Blueprint project’s suggestion is for Biden to embrace his own version of Obama’s “47 percent” messaging against Mitt Romney from 2012, continuing to paint Trump as an out-of-touch billionaire.

“The Biden campaign and Democrats writ large are in a place where it would seem wise to go after the Haley voters,” Roth Smith said.


All in Michigan. The Michigan Democratic Party has reserved $10.5 million worth of TV ads starting Thursday in an effort to hold and expand their majority in the state legislature, according to a breakdown of the spending shared with The Daily Beast.

The Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing media markets will see $2.5 million each from the party’s initial buy. Another $2.6 million will be spread to other media markets in the state.

Trump Can’t Seem to Make Up His Mind About EVs at Michigan Rally

The investments will be key for Democrats as they seek to defend a two-seat majority in Michigan’s Senate; they control Michigan’s House but the chamber is currently equally divided.

In 2022, Democrats flipped both chambers of the Michigan legislature, giving them unified control over state government for the first time in decades.


Spin cycle. Trump’s campaign circulated a document to allies stocked with one-liners meant to defend him during the trial, Jake Lahut and Reese Gorman report.

Resting the case. The Biden campaign doesn’t want to directly engage every twist and turn of Trump’s trial, but they still see a clear way the optics work in their favor, Jake reports.

No acquittal, no problem. Out of 20 members of the Trump-loving House GOP, only one lawmaker expressed any reservations about Trump running for president as a convicted felon, Riley Rogerson reports.

Broke-ish. Disgraced former Rep. George Santos has a creative explanation for why he raised exactly zero dollars for his quixotic comeback House bid, Reese reports.

Red line of credit. David McCormick, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate who is one of the GOP’s top recruits this year, may have illegally allocated campaign funds, Roger Sollenberger and Mini Racker report.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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