Jill Biden says ‘it’s a little shocking’ many Republicans support Trump after indictment
Jun 11, 2023, 9:07 PM | Updated: Jun 12, 2023, 5:16 pm
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden warned Democratic donors Monday that the 2024 election presents a choice between what she described as the “strong, steady leadership” of President Joe Biden or “chaos and corruption, hatred and division” of “MAGA Republicans.”
The first lady, making her first solo outing of the 2024 campaign, commented on the federal indictment of former President Donald Trump, a subject her husband has tried to avoid speaking about.
She expressed surprise that Trump, who is set to appear in a Florida court on Tuesday, had not lost support within his party after the indictment. Jill Biden, speaking in New York City, said she had seen a headline before her flight landed that described a majority of Republicans in a poll saying they were still planning to vote for Trump.
“They don’t care about the indictment. So that’s a little shocking, I think,” she said.
The first lady, making a campaign swing on the East and West coasts after a grueling six-day trip abroad, was at times grim as she referred to Trump’s time in office and the stakes for next year’s election, saying “We cannot go back to those dark days.”
Though the 2024 election in which Biden is seeking reelection is more than a year away, helping him win a second term is a top priority for the first lady, who is also a community college English professor, now that school’s out for the summer.
She started a three-day fundraising swing Monday in New York City before flying later that night to California. She is scheduled to hold events in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with most of her time to be spent raking in money at four political events, including two in California’s Bay Area, to benefit the president’s campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic state party committees.
Biden will also join Gabrielle Giffords at a separate event in Los Angeles to mark 30 years of anti-gun violence work by the Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit led by the former congresswoman. Giffords was shot in the head in 2011 during a constituent event in her Arizona district.
As she was in 2020 and the 2022 campaigns, Jill Biden will be active in the 2024 election cycle, helping the Democratic Party build up its resources and infrastructure while reminding supporters of what’s at stake.
That message was stark Monday, when she told a room of about 50 donors at an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to “think about where we were three years ago.”
“We know what’s in store with the MAGA Republicans. We just know it, right? We know because we’ve lived it. We’ve seen it,” she said. “We know what it’s like to see U.S. policy tweeted out in late-night tweet-storms.”
She did not name Trump but referred to his habits of blasting off posts on Twitter that announced policies, insulted foreign leaders and nations and even fired staffers.
The first lady was at times blunt about how she saw the 2024 election but was informal and conversational, pressing her palms together, referencing her career as a teacher and referring to her husband as “Joe.”
“As she has been for all her husband’s presidential campaigns, she will continue to be a formidable presence on the stump,” said Elizabeth Alexander, a senior campaign adviser. “Her warmth and approachability combined with her 30-plus years as a classroom teacher, make her an effective messenger on the campaign trail.”
The first lady, who introduces herself simply as “Jill,” is widely viewed by the political establishment as one of her husband’s strongest assets. Democratic consultants and pollsters say people see her as someone they can relate to, maybe even reminding them of their favorite teacher.
“Some people go to presidential fundraisers because, quote, unquote, it’s necessary,” said Bob Mulholland, a longtime Democratic campaign strategist. “People go to Jill Biden’s fundraisers because they want to hear from her.”
“Everybody who meets this woman loves her,” added Steve Westly, a Bay Area venture capitalist who helped raise large sums of money for Biden in 2020.
Westly, who is set to host the president at his home later in June, said Jill Biden is the “most genuine, sunny, warmhearted, kind person you’re ever going to meet. She just exudes that.”
Though the young woman whose future husband told her she would never have to give a political speech has become a seasoned public speaker, she still has an occasional off moment. The first lady was criticized, and then apologized, last year for likening the diversity of Hispanics to the flavor of the winners. That idea was roundly panned and quickly died.
Republican strategist Doug Heye said he hasn’t really heard Jill Biden’s name come up in conversations on that side of the political aisle.
“First ladies tend not to be ‘capital P’ political, which is a benefit to them,” Heye said. “She’s not really in that thought process.”
He said presidents’ wives generally are liked by independent voters and that political parties should be careful about trying to turn them into targets.
“If you’re criticizing the first lady, that can backfire,” Heye said.
Celinda Lake, who conducts polling for the Democratic Party, said voters “love, love, love” that Biden still teaches at a community college and didn’t jump to a more prestigious private college or university.
“As a teacher, she knows how to listen and single out people that she thinks needs extra attention or extra conversation,” added Mulholland.
Earlier this year, Jill Biden told The Associated Press in an interview that her husband has more he would like to get done for the American people.
“He says he’s not done,” she said. “He’s not finished what he’s started. And that’s what’s important.”
The 72-year-old first lady participated in nearly 40 campaign and fundraising events in the fall of 2022 in more than a dozen states for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. She is nine years younger than the president, who turns 81 in November.
In some cases, she appeared with candidates who were in tight reelection races, taking the place of the president, who wasn’t always welcome. His public standing was — and remains — below 50%.
She promoted administration accomplishments and legislation that Biden was able to get passed and signed into law in his first two years in office despite what at the time were slim Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, such as COVID-19 relief funds to help schools reopen and money for the nation’s infrastructure needs. She urged supporters to send more Democrats to Congress, but Republicans ended up winning back the House while Democrats kept the Senate, picking up one seat in that chamber.
The first lady also got personal and began appealing, mostly to women but also to men, after the Supreme Court last June overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a constitutional right to an abortion.
She started telling the story of a high school friend’s struggle to end her pregnancy in the late 1960s, when the procedure was illegal, and how she helped her friend recover.
“How could we go back to that time?” she asked.
Price reported from New York.