Stuck in Manhattan for his hush money trial, Donald Trump turns New York City into a campaign set

Josephine Stratman, New York Daily News on

Published in Political News

NEW YORK — In a typical presidential election, the campaign is hardest fought in the battleground states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin.

But for Donald Trump, the past few weeks have looked a little different.

The presumptive Republican nominee, forced to maintain a tight radius around his hush money trial at 100 Centre St., where he’s been confronted with a series of characters from his past telling tales of sordid hotel room trysts and six-figure payoffs, Donald Trump did what Donald Trump does:

He put on a show.

And he’s made New York City his stage, a flashback of sorts to his climb to prominence in the ’80s and ’90s.

In 2024, he’s gone from courthouse hallway, to uptown bodega to Crotona Park rally.

The dingy hallway outside Courtroom 1530 has been his set for daily stump speeches where he rages against “Bidenflation” and pocketbook issues. A neighborhood bodega in West Harlem became a backdrop to platform “out of control” crime in the city. His parade of GOP sycophants and VP-wannabees are his supporting cast side who can say what he can’t at risk of violating a court-imposed gag order.

Trump has spun being stuck in court into pizza-delivery photo ops and fodder for fundraising emails whose subject lines scream things like “They want me in HANDCUFFS” and, falsely, “I stormed out of court!”

The scheme at the heart of the trial first hit the headlines in January 2018 when a bombshell story in the Wall Street Journal reported that Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, had silenced a porn star who alleged she slept with Trump in a scheme to secure Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty to multiple felony counts associated with the alleged scheme.

In New York, Trump’s nearly six weeks of campaigning culminated with Thursday’s rally in the deep-blue Bronx, a place largely hostile to his politics and home to some of his fiercest critics.

“For him, this is old gamesmanship,” longtime political consultant George Arzt told the Daily News. “Anything to get under the skin of Democrats, who he thinks are behind all his legal problems, will make him a very happy man.”

When he’s in court, forced face-to-face with Stormy Daniels, a porn star who described the sordid details of their alleged tryst, and his fixer-turned-foe, Cohen, Trump has been muted. He’s often closed his eyes in either sleep, boredom or both, and sat with his arms crossed. At the mercy of the court system, he doesn’t even control when he stands up or sits down.

His campaign advisers, many of whom appear next to him every day at criminal court, have repeatedly called this strategy — diverting campaign headquarters to the bowels of the courthouse and hitting the pavement in the city — making lemonade out of lemons.

Thursday’s rally drew plenty not from the majority Black and Hispanic Bronx, but many residents of Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rockland County.

As Trump dived into the minutia of his real estate projects in New York and pledged to improve the subway system, which he said “looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since 1932,” it seemed almost like he was campaigning for mayor instead of president.

“Who said we’re not going to win New York? We’re going to win New York,” Trump crowed.

However, political analysts say Trump’s efforts aren’t just directed at the five boroughs. New York, going through its own reckoning on crime, cost of living and an immigration crisis provides a dramatic backdrop to showcase for a national audience the perceived failings of Democrats in office.


The rally in the Bronx, Arzt said, was like “sticking his finger in the eye” of New York City.

“He is saying, ‘I have a chance in New York and let’s see if I could pick up some Black and Hispanic votes,’” Arzt said.

Black and Hispanic voters, especially in swing states like Michigan, Georgia and Arizona, are a critical demographic for Biden. But his grasp on that vote could be slipping. If Trump can take advantage of that, it could smooth his path to the White House.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“It makes me campaign locally. And that’s OK,” Trump said of the trial at the Harlem bodega, where a worker fatally stabbed a man in 2022.

“This trial that I have right now, that’s a Biden trial,” he added moments later. “They want to keep me off the campaign trail, but based on what I’m doing here, I think there’s more press here than there is if I went out to some nice location.”

Trump does not have much of a shot in New York City. In 2016 and 2020, the vast majority of voters cast their ballots for Biden. However, the state overall has shifted more Republican. The party recently gained a rare foothold in the Bronx with the election of a Republican council member, and the state came close to electing Lee Zeldin in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

“I think the Democratic Party would be remiss to just assume that this city is super blue and they can ignore it, especially since New York is the reason why Joe Biden doesn’t have a unified government,” Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University, told the News.

In the 2022 midterm elections, four New York seats in Congress flipped from Democrat to Republican, an embarrassing loss for state Democrats.

“To campaign in New York, he makes the case to disaffected Democrats, generally Black men and Latino men who feel that they have been taken for granted, and taken advantage of that particular narrative, to say, ‘I’m actually campaigning here, and, where’s the president?’” Greer said.

Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist, said Trump will “take any chance to take a swipe” at New York. Trump is attempting to make a dent in the Democratic stronghold and undermine just how deep-blue New York really is.

“He’s obviously not doing it to pick up votes locally, as he’s beyond incredibly unpopular in New York, especially in New York City. So it’s not like he’s trying to siphon votes away from Joe Biden,” Reinish said.

“However, look — logistically, he is stuck here, so why not use the media capital of the world, where he knows he will draw cameras, and he knows that he will draw bystanders or they can maybe draw some supporters in from further away out of New York City, and why not take advantage of that.”

At the Crotona Park rally on Thursday evening, Andrew Giuliani warmed up the crowd for Trump. Noting that the Bronx has been home to many legendary Yankees players, Rudy’s son said the former president needs to be added to that list.

“Because tonight, Trump is playing the Bronx,” Giuliani said.

©2024 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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