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Week in politics: Biden holds first reelection rally; Trump arraignment

DON GONYEA, HOST:

After so much attention on the Republican field for president in 2024, President Joe Biden today in Philadelphia holds his first campaign rally for reelection. And that's where we'll begin our politics conversation with NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving.

Hey, Ron Elving. Ron?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Don.

GONYEA: OK. So President Biden, I don't know, trying to capture some 2024 attention in the media cycle that's been dominated by the former president.

ELVING: Yes, he'd surely like to do that. But it's also a bit of a nostalgia play, Don. This is what campaigns looked like before the internet - lots of people and music and unions carrying their banners. This event highlights Biden's support from the AFL-CIO and other traditional Democratic groups. It says he's the incumbent and he has no major opponent in the party. That's always the first hurdle for an incumbent seeking reelection. But beyond his own party, Biden is showing himself here as the symbolic leader of the country, leading the national celebration on these warm-weather patriotic holidays - Memorial Day, Juneteenth, the 4th of July, Labor Day. It's an effort at uplift and unity in a time of tension and partisan division.

GONYEA: OK. The dramatic event that was former President Trump's arraignment this week, has that begun to alter the political mood or the landscape at all?

ELVING: There has been a shift - so far, rather subtle, far less than some would expect. But our NPR/Marist poll and others have shown great awareness of the charges. And backlash or no backlash, an indictment of this magnitude is never a plus. And it's true, most Republicans see the charges as politically motivated, and they see Trump as more sinned against than sinning. But not everyone who's voted for Trump has been a diehard Trump fan. Some have just been voting for their party's nominee. Some are independents. And in those categories, Trump's numbers are not as strong.

GONYEA: How has this affected those Republicans who are trying, in some sense, to succeed Trump.

ELVING: Trying to succeed him is a good way to put it. They don't expect to take the nomination away from him, but they hope to catch it if he can't hold on. So this week, we got another entrant in the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez. That makes it three official candidates from Florida, if you're keeping track at home. On the indictment, we've heard a couple say Trump should quit the race. A couple of others criticized his handling of the documents, and several saying, hey, vote for me, and I'll grant Trump a pardon. So I thought Mike Pence had kind of a good comeback to that. He asked why his rivals were presuming Trump would need a pardon.

GONYEA: OK. The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting this week. It's always a big deal. And there was news. Tell us about it and what it might mean for Republican politics.

ELVING: Well, the Southern Baptists are the largest of the evangelical denominations, a tremendous anchor within that community. And they've been a key voting bloc for Trump and other Republicans. This week, they voted to deny fellowship to two congregations - one in Kentucky and another, a megachurch with tens of thousands of attendees in Southern California. Both had included women among their pastors, something other denominations have been doing for a very long time, but not the Southern Baptists. So this was a statement of here we stand. And it bespeaks a kind of defiance that's been a key to some elements of the contemporary Republican coalition.

GONYEA: Just a little bit of time left. One last thing - you and I have covered a lot of campaign cycles together. How's the economy shaping up as a factor in this one?

ELVING: Oh, it's always the economy. The economic news in the last couple of months has been improving. Inflation's down. Economy is still creating new jobs. But there are metrics that point to a coming recession. Economists are telling us, maybe this year, maybe next. So for now, Biden will take any kind of good economy. Even if he doesn't get much credit for it, he knows he'd get all the blame for a bad one.

GONYEA: NPR's Ron Elving.

Ron, thanks much.

ELVING: Thank you, Don. 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.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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