For weary Democrats, Trump verdict is finally a bright spot

For Democrats who have suffered through a cycle of tough news about President Joe Biden, Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts in New York on Thursday offered a rare bright spot.

Biden, who has struggled in the polls and is battling to keep some of his core base intact for the fall election, was quiet himself after the verdict was announced, as his campaign stayed on message that the only way to defeat Trump was at the ballot box.

“No one is above the law … Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” Biden campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement. “The threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater. “

NBC News was inside Biden’s campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, just before news of an imminent verdict broke. It was, at least at the moment, just another Thursday in the bustling two floors of office space in a downtown high-rise near Biden’s home. The campaign was gearing up for a major month meant to turn the page from the end of Trump’s trial, which will end with the first of two face-to-face Biden-Trump debates.

At the same time, the campaign on Thursday underscored messaging it teased last week: that voters should wake up to the possibility of another Trump term. That means, they say, getting involved in Democratic campaigns and fundraisers to stop Trump in November — and not expecting that Trump would somehow go away because of the myriad trials he faces.

But allies and fellow Democrats saw the resounding convictions — on all counts — as potentially hindering Trump’s electoral prospects in what poll after poll has shown to be a close race.

“There is no way to spin that this is a good day for Donald Trump,” said Pete Giangreco, a veteran Democratic strategist who previously worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaign. “There isn’t a way to say how many folks cannot vote for a felon who are Trump voters. There’s a lot of folks who don’t like Biden and don’t like the current state of affairs, who before today would hold their noses and vote for Trump. I think a lot of those people may now say, ‘I’ll stay at home.’”

That’s unlikely to be reflected in the polls, Giangreco said: “What polls can’t measure is who is going to stay home.”

One Biden ally called it a “great day” and was among Democrats who saw the verdict as a potential boost to Biden, calling it “possibly a turning point.

The verdict served as another kind of marker, and that is one where it may have finally shook awake potential voters who haven’t been paying attention to the presidential election yet, veteran Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said.

“This clearly makes it harder for Donald Trump to win the election,” Rosenberg said. “This will likely cause the acceleration of the tuning in process, and for people just waking up, the thing that they’ll be learning is that the leader of the Republican party is a convicted felon.”

Biden wasn’t expected to hold a separate news availability to address the verdict, according to a person with knowledge of his plans. But he could end up taking a question about it in the future when he’s already in front of reporters.

“We respect the rule of law and have no additional comment,” said Ian Sams, spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office.

At the same time, the Biden campaign underscored messaging it teased last week: that voters should wake up to the possibilities of another Trump term. That means, the campaign says, getting supporters involved in Democratic campaigns and fundraisers to stop Trump in November — and getting them to stop expecting that he will somehow go away because of the myriad trials he faces.

A Democratic strategist familiar with the Biden campaign’s thinking said the re-election team was taking a long view with respect to Thursday’s guilty verdict. As significant as the development is in the moment, Trump’s “being a felon won’t be a central message” in the long term, the strategist said.

Last week, the Biden campaign said it planned to shift to a more aggressive, issue-based approach to Trump after the case concluded. Biden’s team will focus on its core set of issues about what matters to voters: threats to democracy and individual freedoms, Biden’s economic accomplishments and prioritizing the middle class over the wealthy and corporations.

“Ultimately, the president needs to convince the American people that Trump’s chaos and lawlessness is bad for their lives, not just Trump’s,” the strategist said.

While the campaign was careful not to take on a celebratory tone, other Democrats were far more open with their thoughts. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose state is hosting the Democratic convention this summer, didn’t hold back in a post.

“Donald Trump is a racist, a homophobe, a grifter, and a threat to this country. He can now add one more title to his list — a felon,” Pritzker wrote on X.

A social media fan account not associated with the Biden campaign posted a photo of Biden holding an ice cream cone and manipulated the photo so he was holding a giant “L.”

Brandon Weathersby, a spokesman for the pro-Biden American Bridge PAC, said in a statement: “This trial exposed Trump’s corrupt deals with tabloids, exploitation of staff and associates, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to serve himself above all costs. The last six weeks were a reminder for voters that Donald Trump’s number one priority is always himself. At a time when we need stable, clear-eyed leadership to stand up to adversaries like Russia and China, Trump reminded voters that he’ll always put himself over the needs of the country.”

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