Biden targets ‘convicted criminal’ Trump in $50 million ad blitz ahead of first debate

With just over a week to go until he squares off with Donald Trump in their first face-to-face meeting since October 2020, President Joe Biden and his re-election campaign are looking to use Trump’s legal troubles to set the terms of this year’s electoral contest with a new advertisement listing the ex-president’s numerous courtroom setbacks.

The 30-second spot, titled “Character Matters,” starts off with a male narrator intoning: “In the courtroom, we see Donald Trump for who he is.”

The voiceover continues by noting that Trump has “been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault,” and has “committed financial fraud,” referring to the ex-president’s criminal conviction for falsifying business records by a New York jury last month, a separate trial in which he was found to have raped writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s, and yet another civil trial in which his eponymous company was determined to have perpetrated a massive fraud to the tune of nearly a half-billion dollars.

“Meanwhile, Joe Biden has been working,” the narrator says, by “lowering health care costs” and “making big corporations pay their fair share,” referring to the president’s work to cap insulin prices for seniors and efforts to close corporate tax loopholes.

“This election is between a convicted criminal who’s only out for himself and a president who’s fighting for your family,” the narrator concludes.

Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director, said in a statement that the advertisement points out that Trump is coming into the June 27 debate with Biden as “as a convicted felon who continues to prove that he will do anything and harm anyone if it means more power and vengeance for Donald Trump.”

He also called the former president’s campaign “an exercise in revenge and retribution” and said Trump is “blind to the people a president should be serving” while being willing to “do absolutely anything for his own personal gain and for his own power.”

“Character matters, and the president of the United States should be someone who understands that the highest office in the land is about you and your family — not a vehicle to enrich yourself. That is the ethos Joe Biden puts into the job every day: to fight for safer communities, for the middle class, and to ensure that corporations are paying their fair share,” he said.

Trump has, on a number of occasions, baselessly accused Biden of orchestrating charges against him, and the president’s campaign has previously steered clear of explicitly weighing in on Trump’s legal troubles to avoid giving oxygen to those false allegations or making it seem as if the sitting president was putting his thumb on the scales.

But in the wake of the Republican nominee’s unprecedented felony convictions, both the president and his re-election apparatus have shown a newfound willingness to remind the American public that Trump is the only former American chief executive to have been found guilty of crimes that were committed during his time in the White House.

Earlier this month, at a fundraiser with a small group of donors in Greenwich, Connecticut, Biden for the first time called Trump a “convicted felon” and said his predecessor poses a threat to the United States if he wins another term.

Joe Biden for the first time called Trump a ‘convicted felon’ earlier this month (AFP/Getty)
Joe Biden for the first time called Trump a ‘convicted felon’ earlier this month (AFP/Getty)

The new ad campaign includes more than $1 million geared toward media reaching Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters. The advert will air on general market television, streaming devices and mobile phones in battleground states, as well as on national cable stations.

Trump also faces felony charges in three separate criminal cases, none of which may go to trial before the November election. Trump has denied all charges against him.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted shortly after Trump’s conviction found that 10 percent of Republican voters said they were less likely to vote for Trump in November after the guilty verdict. Biden’s son Hunter was this month convicted by a jury for lying about his illegal drug use to buy a gun, making him the first offspring of a sitting US president to be convicted of a crime. Polls including one from Reuters/Ipsos show a vast majority of voters say Hunter’s conviction won’t affect their vote in the November 5 election.

While Biden and Trump remain tied in national polls, Trump still has the edge over his opponent in the battleground states that will decide the election, polls conducted before the conviction show. But Democrats have vowed to spend more than $10 million on House and Senate races in these states, in a bid to boost Biden’s support.

The Biden campaign has stepped up its attacks on the Republican nominee, publicly slamming Donald Trump’s legal track record (AP)
The Biden campaign has stepped up its attacks on the Republican nominee, publicly slamming Donald Trump’s legal track record (AP)

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) president Heather Williams told NBC that legislative candidates are “a critical part” of getting Biden elected, adding that they are part of a broader effort that includes “not only telling the story of their campaigns and their priorities, but also the story of Democratic Party values, of how we are advancing those, and the story of the president’s agenda.”

“Those conversations are incredibly powerful and they bring people into the process in a way that certainly supports the entire ticket — up and down the ballot,” Williams added.

The new approach comes ahead of the first debate between Trump and Biden of the 2024 election cycle, which will be aired on CNN on June 27. A second face-off is set for September 10, hosted by ABC.

The Biden campaign’s fundraising in April lagged behing Trump’s for the first time, after the former president ramped up his joint operation with the Republican National Committee and headlined high-dollar fundraisers.

Democrats still maintained an overall cash advantage over Trump and the Biden campaign continues to have a considerably larger war chest. On Saturday, Biden raised $30 million at a star-studded fundraiser in Los Angeles, California.

With additional reporting by agencies