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Trump griped about trial but did not use holiday to hit multiple swing states

Trump jeered by libertarians, but analyst notes ‘earned media’ benefits

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, addresses the Libertarian National Convention in Washington on Saturday.
Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, addresses the Libertarian National Convention in Washington on Saturday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — Donald Trump has complained for weeks that he cannot hit the campaign trail because he is stuck in a Manhattan courtroom. But he opted against using a holiday weekend break in the criminal hush money trial to visit multiple battleground states.

“I’d like to be out campaigning right now,” Trump told reporters outside the New York courtroom on May 21, before a Memorial Day weekend break. “But again, I’m gonna have to be in here almost five weeks in court. They have no case. There’s no crime.”

On May 9, Trump groused before the court gaveled in that day that he would have preferred to be in Georgia, Florida or Ohio talking to voters rather than in a courtroom he has called an “icebox.”

But he did not use the lengthy holiday weekend break to visit any of those states. Instead, on Thursday evening, he held a rally in the city’s Bronx borough — even though he lost Bronx County to now-President Joe Biden in 2020, 83.5 percent to 15.9 percent.

Though Trump and his team had to factor in the possibility the court could have met Thursday, he recently boasted that he could provide his own transportation to debates with Biden. He owns a Boeing 757 aircraft, which he used to hold a flyover before Sunday’s Coca Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, a state Trump won by less than 2 points but Biden’s team hopes to make competitive this year.

The Manhattan courtroom of Judge Juan Merchan has typically adjourned for the day around 4:30 p.m. That means it was not inconceivable, even if the trial had been in session Thursday, that Trump could have gotten to a rally in the Tar Heel State or Pennsylvania, a sure-fire swing state that is a short flight from any New York City area airport.

On Saturday, rather than heading to a swing state, Trump opted to address the Libertarian National Convention in Washington. But in a surreal scene, a politician who typically only addresses fans sporting “Make America Great Again” hats and T-shirts was booed, jeered and heckled.

Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, said in an email that “holding rallies in places like New York and New Jersey seems pointless. Trump is not going to win either of those states.”

Still, he said there was a strategic point to both events.

“I do think it’s fair to say that both rallies did generate a fair amount of earned media coverage, although that would be the case for swing state rallies, too,” Kondik said. “The appearance at the Libertarian convention seemed like something of a bust, although it was also in the middle of a long holiday weekend and probably didn’t get much attention anyway.”

Trump on Saturday evening declared — his arms out to his sides, as boos rained out from attendees — that “the Libertarian Party should nominate Donald Trump for president of the United States.” But he also appeared to respond to the surreal scene, responding to jeers at one point by saying, “Whoa. That’s nice. That’s nice.”

Many in the audience were not impressed nor ready to join the MAGA movement.

Video footage of the event captured attendees shouting things like, “Lock him up!” and “Donald Trump is a threat to democracy.” One person shouted at the former president, “You had your shot!” Others shouted profanity.

In turn, Trump was not impressed.

“Only if you want to win. Maybe you don’t want to win,” Trump said of libertarians casting ballots for him in November, before mocking their candidates’ recent general election performances. “Keep getting your 3 percent every four years.”

Supporters and critics of former President Donald Trump cheer and jeer as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee addressed the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton on Saturday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz told CNN he thought Trump’s appearance at a libertarian convention was “ironic” because “no one has been more restrictive, whether it’s women’s reproductive rights or the right to vote.”

Some Trump allies, however, defended the move.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who was jeered at the convention, used a post on X to call the former president’s remarks “bold, courageous, and unprecedented. Those who stand for liberty should vote for Trump!”

Trump did, however, appear to get back on a more-MAGA course with his Charlotte Motor Speedway flyover and in-person appearance at the longest race of the stock car series’ season. He won North Carolina in 2016 and 2020, and is trying to beat back Biden’s attempts to snatch it this cycle.

Trump was back in the Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday as his defense team was up first in the trial’s closing argument phase. The 45th president is expected to be in court much of this week, as Biden heads back to battleground Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

The Scranton, Pa., native will be in Philadelphia, a favorite venue for a number of official and campaign stops during his 2020 campaign and term in office. Biden’s latest campaign stop will include Vice President Kamala Harris as well, and comes as an Emerson College poll of registered voters nationally conducted May 21-23 put him and Trump in a tie (50 percent-50 percent) in a hypothetical one-on-one race. When other candidates were added, the same survey showed Trump up 5 percentage points nationally, 44 percent to 39 percent.

In the Keystone State, a RealClearPolitics average of polls showed Trump up 2.3 percent as of Tuesday. Biden edged Trump in Pennsylvania in 2020, 50 percent to 48.8 percent.

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