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Biden and Trump begin events in states that are expected to be competitive this fall

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

This weekend was the unofficial kickoff to the presidential campaign. President Biden and Donald Trump held rally 60 miles from each other in the swing state of Georgia and delivered very different messages. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro has been listening to both. Domenico, so both men are starting to hold events in states that are expected to be very competitive this fall. How are they selling themselves?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, not surprisingly, very differently. I was at Biden's first event after his State of the Union address outside of Philadelphia on Friday. He was relaxed. The crowd was friendly. He reiterated a lot of what we heard at the State of the Union, talking about Trump as a threat to democracy, promising to codify Roe as federal law, touting some of his policies and things that he said needed to be done on the economy to, quote, "finish the job." The next day in Georgia was similar. He talked of democracy being on the line, and he accused Trump of, quote, "sucking up to dictators all over the world."

MARTÍNEZ: How does team Biden feel this is working for them?

MONTANARO: Well, they feel pretty good about it. You know, Biden's campaign says that it raised $10 million in the 24 hours after the State of the Union. So, yeah, they think that it's going quite well. And they have a new ad out. And let's take a listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Look, I'm not a young guy. That's no secret. But here's the deal, I understand how to get things done for the American people. Donald Trump believes the job of the president is to take care of Donald Trump. I believe the job of the president is to fight for you, the American people.

MONTANARO: So you hear Biden there taking on questions about his age head on, pointing to what he's done and who he's not.

MARTÍNEZ: What about Trump? What are voters hearing from Donald Trump?

MONTANARO: Well, in Georgia, he fired up the crowd with some of his nativist talk about immigration, something we've heard him do for years now. He played to those on the right also who are leery of vaccines, saying that he won't give a penny to school districts that require masks or vaccines despite an increase, for example, of measles cases recently because of parents not vaccinating their kids. And Trump crassly made fun of Biden's stutter, something that the president has openly talked about struggling with since he was a kid. Here's what Trump said. And mind you, this includes something Trump has done before, making fun of those with disabilities, and some listeners might find it disturbing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Two nights ago, we all heard Crooked Joe's angry, dark, hate-filled rant of a State of the Union address. Wasn't it? Didn't it bring us together? Remember, he said, (imitating Joe Biden) I'm going to bring the country t-t-t-t-together, I'm going to bring it together. No, no, he's a threat to democracy.

MONTANARO: You know, I thought that that soundbite was important because it encapsulates a lot about what Trump is about. He's trying to use what people say about him and throw it back at them, you know, angry, hate-filled threat to democracy. Biden would probably say, that sounds like someone he knows. It's also a reminder for those who, for the better part of the last four years, might not have been paying close attention to what Trump has been saying and just how far he's willing to go to demean his opponents, especially when they get good reviews for their performances.

MARTÍNEZ: So is that message working for him?

MONTANARO: Well, it depends on for who. You know, it's certainly red meat for his base, probably helps him fundraise, but it doesn't do much to appeal to persuadable voters who are looking for a degree of seriousness and normalcy in this election.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Thing is, though, you know, Biden has some vulnerabilities, too, I mean, including many in his base just don't seem that enthusiastic about voting for him.

MONTANARO: That's true. I mean, he's president and his record is on the line, and he's getting low ratings for his handling of the economy and immigration. He faced protesters in Pennsylvania over Gaza. He apologized for using the word illegal in his State of the Union. So he does have a big task ahead of him. And I thought it was telling, you know, talking to a father and daughter at Biden's rally outside Philadelphia. Neither was super excited about voting for Biden.

The dad said he obviously wasn't as, quote, "electrifying" as Obama was when he spoke in the town in 2008. But he's voting for him anyway, and so is his daughter. She's 19, a college sophomore, voting in her first presidential election. Asked her why, she just sort of shrugged and said, well, he's not Trump, you know? And I think that that's a lot of what this election is going to be about, people kind of coming around and accepting who this election is between, even if it wasn't their ideal pairing. And remember, an unenthusiastic vote counts just as much as an enthusiastic one.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, sure does. NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: A, you're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ CAM QUARTET'S "HERBIE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.