NATIONAL NEWS

The Biden and Trump campaigns are readying for their rematch, starting with rival events in Georgia

Mar 6, 2024, 9:10 PM

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential ...

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024. Biden and Trump each won the White House through razor-thin margins in key states. Now they each must try to rebuild their once-winning coalitions. (AP Photo, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Biden and Donald Trump each won the White House by razor-thin margins in key states.

Now, with a rematch of their bitter 2020 campaign all but officially set after Super Tuesday, the two campaigns are unveiling their strategies for an unprecedented matchup between a president and his immediate predecessor.

Both campaigns will fight the hardest in seven battleground states, five of which flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden four years ago. Biden’s reelection campaign claims a jump on hiring staff and targeting swing-state voters. Trump campaign officials are finalizing a takeover of the Republican National Committee this week and looking to expand their field operation.

Biden and Trump will each hold events in Georgia on Saturday, a week after they did simultaneous U.S.-Mexico border trips in Texas. That’s a reflection of how closely their campaigns will bump up against each other but also how they will work for votes differently. Biden will be in metro Atlanta, home to a fast-growing and diverse population. Trump will visit rural northwest Georgia and the district of Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a firebrand conservative discussed as a possible running mate.

In a statement Tuesday night, Biden blistered Trump, saying the former president is “driven by grievance and grift, focused on his own revenge and retribution” and “determined to destroy democracy, rip away fundamental freedoms like the ability for women to make their own health care decisions and pass another round of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy.”

Trump has spent months skewering Biden for inflation, an uptick in migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, crime in U.S. cities and the wars in Ukraine and Israel. “This is a magnificent country and it’s so sad to see where it’s gone,” he said Tuesday night. “We’re going to straighten it out.”

Biden: A post-pandemic chance at traditional campaigning

Biden’s campaign has hired leadership teams of three to five people — each with deep, in-state political experience — in eight states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those, only Florida and North Carolina have twice gone for Trump, though North Carolina is seen by both parties as competitive. Both Biden and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won Nevada.

The campaign plans to expand those teams to as many as 15 people each, then bring on hundreds of paid organizers across the battleground map in the coming weeks. Those organizers, in turn, will be tasked with coordinating tens of thousands of volunteers.

Biden’s effort will feature “a large brick-and-mortar operation that we couldn’t do in 2020” because of COVID-19 restrictions, said Dan Kanninen, the campaign’s battleground states director. That means returning to door-knocking and phone-banking with the campaign prioritizing the quality of voter contact rather than just the quantity. It will also train volunteers and give them the flexibility to influence their own social networks — promoting Biden’s campaign in non-traditional online spaces that can best sway their relatives, friends and neighbors.

“I see what we’re doing now as the smarter extension of what we learned in ’12 and also the smarter extension of what we learned in ’20,” Kanninen said, referring to both Biden’s victory and the successful reelection of then-President Barack Obama.

Biden’s campaign has lists of existing volunteers who were involved in the 2020 and 2022 elections, meaning they can reactivate existing networks rather than starting from scratch. In Arizona, it has prioritized Spanish-language outreach early, opening its first Arizona field office in Maryvale, an area of Phoenix that is about 75% Hispanic.

“We are making sure that we’re using the next couple of months to build up really quickly to lay that foundation for the general election,” said Sean McEnerney, Biden’s campaign manager in Arizona.

Kanninen said he doubts Trump has enough time to ratchet up the Republican National Committee’s organizing efforts the same way.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have vastly outraised Republicans so far. The Biden campaign reported $56 million on hand at the end of January, according to federal disclosures, while Trump’s campaign reported a balance of $30.5 million.

“He can’t buy this time back,” Kanninen said. “You just cannot replicate this by writing a big check, even if they had the money.”

Trump: An RNC takeover and lining up behind ‘the boss’

For Trump, the next post-Super Tuesday step is to complete a takeover of the RNC at the party’s spring meeting that begins Thursday.

The former president effectively will absorb GOP headquarters into his campaign, installing his preferred leadership with a priority on catching up to the fundraising and organizing operation that Biden’s reelection team shares with the DNC.

“It’s message and mechanics,” said Trump senior adviser Chris LaCivita. “If we do what we’re supposed to do from the campaign standpoint, we’ll be able to really drive and increase the states where we are competitive.”

LaCivita, who is set to become the RNC’s chief operating officer while retaining his campaign role, listed seven of the same eight states the Biden campaign sees as battlegrounds. He clarified that he expects Trump to win Florida again but promised the campaign would not be caught flat-footed there. He also said Trump could be “competitive” in Virginia, which Democrats have won in every presidential race since 2008.

He plans for the RNC to begin expanding its field operation and adding staff to coordinate voter outreach “immediately” after the leadership transition at this week’s party meeting. LaCivita and Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, will represent the former president at the meeting in Houston. Lara Trump will become RNC co-chair alongside incoming chair Michael Whatley, the current head of the North Carolina party.

“As soon as we get in, everything changes, and there will be more of a focus on battleground states, as opposed to community centers in Jacksonville, Florida,” LaCivita said.

That’s a shot at previous RNC investments in community outreach centers targeting Black and other minority voters that historically back Democrats in large percentages. At its peak in the 2022 cycle, the RNC had 38 such centers. That total has now dwindled to seven, with locations in potential swing-state North Carolina but also New York, California and Texas, a trio that won’t be competitive in the presidential race.

LaCivita’s promised buildout will take a financial turnaround. The DNC began the year with 2.5 times as much in the bank as the RNC after outraising and outspending Republicans in 2023.

But LaCivita said he isn’t worried about the overall dynamics as the general election takes shape. “What advantage they may have in timing, they will soon lose on message,” he said Tuesday night.

The RNC has established a full-time election integrity department with directors in 15 key states to safeguard voting and spearhead post-election litigation. That’s expected given Trump’s demands that the RNC do more to boost his lies about widespread voter fraud. Lawyers backing Trump launched dozens of failed lawsuits after he lost in 2020.

The committee has also hired political staff in 15 battlegrounds, including those with important House and Senate races, like New York, California and Montana, while beginning an early in-person voting and ballot harvesting initiative called “Bank Your Vote” in all 50 states, six territories and six languages.

LaCivita, meanwhile, noted another wild card: Trump, he said, “is very keen on New York,” the heavily Democratic state where the former president was born, raised and anchored his real estate, marketing and reality television success. New York last went for a Republican presidential candidate in 1984.

Asked what he thinks about the prospects of flipping New York to Trump, LaCivita laughed and said, “I do what the boss says. The boss drives.”

___

Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

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The Biden and Trump campaigns are readying for their rematch, starting with rival events in Georgia