How will the Biden campaign exploit the Trump hush money guilty verdict?

Trump and Biden face crucial strategic decisions on how to play the conviction. They’ll meet for their first debate June 27 in Atlanta, Trump will be sentenced July 11 and the Republican National Convention kicks off July 15 in Milwaukee.

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Ex-President Donald Trump and attorney Todd Blanche, both wearing dark suits and white shirts with ties, stand behind a metal barrier as they address media after Trump's guilty verdict on 34 felony counts.

Former President Donald Trump and his attorney Todd Blanche speak to media outside a Manhattan courthouse after Trump was found guilty following his hush money trial in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday.

Pool/Getty

WASHINGTON — A New York jury found ex-President Donald Trump guilty on 34 felony counts Thursday, sending the rematch with President Joe Biden into unprecedented territory as the Biden campaign has to figure out how to effectively exploit the verdict.

Trump and Biden face crucial strategic decisions on how to play the conviction in the coming weeks. They meet for their first debate June 27 in Atlanta, hosted by CNN. Trump will be sentenced July 11.

The Republican National Convention kicks off in Milwaukee on July 15, with delegates on track for a convicted felon to be the GOP nominee.

It’s a quick-moving political calendar. Everyone will be watching to see if any Republicans of note yank their endorsements because of the conviction. It seems unlikely.

There is no playbook on how to run against a convicted felon being a major party presidential nominee, especially in a toxic political environment where a sizable number of people believe Trump’s lies that he won the 2020 election.

I asked Democratic analyst David Axelrod how the Biden team will exploit the verdict, and he told me, “These are uncharted waters. I’m not sure of anything in this moment; nor are they, I bet.”

Another Chicago Democratic consultant, Tom Bowen, said, “This is a historic moment that will surely break through to those voters who typically don’t pay attention to politics right now.

“The Biden campaign has a unique opportunity to drive a message about how electing a convicted felon will do irreparable damage to America.”

Greg Bales, another Chicago Democratic strategist, said the verdict could influence enough independent voters to “contribute to the necessary percentage of folks who will not vote for Donald Trump.”

We know what Trump’s message is and will be.

He showed his hand minutes after he left the Manhattan courtroom, where he said he was the innocent victim of a “rigged trial, a disgrace” and the “real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people.” Trump also blamed Biden, again and incorrectly, for bringing the case, presenting no evidence and counting on voters not realizing that the 34 charges were brought by a local — not federal — prosecutor.

Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., echoing Trump, said on X, “I sat in this trial for a day & it was a complete SHAM.”

Trump was found guilty of falsifying New York business records in order to, as the prosecution has said, “conceal his illegal scheme to corrupt the 2016 election” with the records having to do with a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

The problem for the Biden campaign is that Trump’s popularity, especially in crucial swing states, has not been impacted by the multiple criminal and civil cases against him.

With the Trump case in Manhattan winding down, the Biden campaign was ramping up attacks on Trump on other fronts, to be proactive with messaging, especially in swing states and with key groups no matter what the jury decided.

On Wednesday, the Biden-Harris campaign went after Trump for wanting to limit access to “contraception — even condoms.”

Putting a priority in recent days on shoring up slipping support among Black voters, the campaign produced an ad recounting Trump’s racist history.

In Philadelphia on Wednesday, appearing jointly with Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden amplified the paid spot, saying that after Trump lost in 2020, “something literally snapped in this guy. No, I’m serious. That’s why January 6th happened, when he unleashed an insurrection. Now, he’s running again, and he’s clearly unhinged.”

Noting Trump’s pledge to pardon people convicted for the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the election, Biden said, “Think about this: What do you think would have happened if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol? I don’t think he’d be talking about pardons.”

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., said after Trump’s conviction, “His reputation as a racist, a man who was found liable for sexual assault, his promise to be a dictator ‘on day one,’ and his promise of retribution make him unfit for the office of the Presidency. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, is a loser in court and now we must beat him at the ballot box.”

How the Biden-Harris campaign uses the Trump conviction depends on a core assessment: if it will move the needle with persuadable voters. It may turn out that threats to condom access do a better job of making the case.

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