A poster of candidates competing for the Republican nomination is seen at the Iowa State Fair, in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 18, 2023.

Biden, Trump Keeping Light Campaign Schedules as Rivals Rack Up Stops

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Their rivals are busy answering voters’ questions at town halls across South Carolina, glad-handing with business owners in New Hampshire and grinding to hit every one of Iowa’s 99 counties.

But the front-runners for their party’s nomination, former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, are barely campaigning in crucial early-voting states as the primary season enters the fall rush.

Biden is attending a union parade in Philadelphia on Monday. But he has held just one campaign rally in the four-plus months since he formally launched his 2024 reelection bid. Trump, who complained of Biden’s “basement strategy” in 2020, has not campaigned for three weeks now, last appearing at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12.

The schedules underscore the reality that Democrat Biden and Republican Trump, despite underwater approval ratings nationally, are the dominant front-runners. Biden faces only token opposition in anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is viewed more favorably by Republicans than Democrats, while Trump is currently beating his closest rival by large margins, according to recent polls.

“When you have a massive lead over your primary opponents, it doesn’t seem like a lot of point,” said veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres, speaking about the early-state campaigning typical at this stage of a race.

Biden and Trump have worked to project an air of inevitability four months before voting begins in 2024. Biden has focused on governing and traveling the country to promote his policy accomplishments. Trump repeatedly skips events with other candidates and passed on the first Republican primary debate last month.

But both have different reasons for their relative absence from campaigning.

Trump’s team has been consumed by the criminal charges he now faces in four separate jurisdictions accusing him of illegally trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, improperly classifying hush money payments in business records, mishandling classified documents after leaving office and trying to obstruct that investigation.

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