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Bronx rally is the latest example of Trump campaign balancing criminal trial demands


Former President Donald Trump will hold a rally this evening in New York City. It's an interesting choice for a Republican presidential candidate. A Republican hasn't carried the Big Apple since Calvin Coolidge 100 years ago. But Trump's campaign must balance campaigning with his criminal trial in Manhattan, hence the rally in the South Bronx. NPR's Franco Ordoñez is in New York to cover the rally, and he joins me now. Good morning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So what is Trump trying to accomplish here?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, the first is just recognizing that Trump can only be at so many places when he's required to be at that trial...

FADEL: Right.

ORDOÑEZ: ...On charges that he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star during the 2016 election. Now, I talked with Danielle Alvarez, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, and she says the former president insists on campaigning whenever and wherever he can. You know, she points to a campaign stop early in the trial at a Harlem bodega where an employee was attacked to raise attention about crime in big cities, you know, or that surprise morning stop at a Manhattan construction site to visit with union workers to highlight support from working-class Americans.

DANIELLE ALVAREZ: The reality is that these Biden sham trials, which are politically motivated, have resulted in the president using New York City as a backdrop during court days and then campaigning all across the country on weekends and on Wednesdays.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, Leila, of course, there is no evidence that Biden has any involvement in these cases...

FADEL: Right.

ORDOÑEZ: ...Or that the trials are a sham, but it is a political message that Trump is using to stir up his base by casting himself as a victim of an unfair justice system.

FADEL: Yeah, even if there's no evidence of that. OK, so why specifically the South Bronx?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, the campaign sees this as an opportunity to engage with some voters who have not traditionally voted Republican. They also see an opportunity to exploit some of the cracks in Biden's coalition, that coalition that helped him win four years ago, especially among Black and Latino voters. Here's Alvarez again.

ALVAREZ: Poll after poll shows that President Trump is winning with Hispanic voters, making incredible gains with Black voters. And in the inverse, Joe Biden is hemorrhaging support from his base.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, Biden is still expected to win the Latino vote as well as the African American vote. But the question is, by how much? And there are polls that do show Trump's cutting into that support.

FADEL: Yeah, so hemorrhaging might be an overstatement there. But he's cutting into the support. So what's the response from the Biden campaign?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, the Biden campaign is hitting back hard. They're launching a new ad campaign attacking Trump on his record with Black and brown Americans...

FADEL: Right.

ORDOÑEZ: ...You know, highlighting some of the most racially charged remarks Trump's made, including about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and dehumanizing language against Latino migrants. Some of these ads will run across the Bronx and New York as Trump is visiting today, you know, making the case that a second term would be worse for Black and brown Americans.

FADEL: Now, Trump's campaign has said that he's used the days he's not in court to campaign. Has he?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, some, but not a lot. I mean...


ORDOÑEZ: ...He's also used that time to host fundraisers, take meetings and play golf. This is such a different election cycle. You know, we've not seen as much traditional campaigning from Trump or Biden. And that was the case in the primary season as well. I mean, Trump can still reach many voters via the television screen. I mean, this rally in the South Bronx, or at least clips from it, will be broadcast everywhere. And it's a reason this will be interesting to watch what happens after the trial comes to an end, because we're going to get to see whether Trump gets to more traditional campaigning.

FADEL: That's Franco Ordoñez in New York. Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, Leila. 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.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.