Donald Trump
Donald Trump will next month become the first former US president to face a criminal trial, after a New York judge declined to dismiss or delay the ‘hush money’ case brought against him © Reuters

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Good morning and welcome to the debut edition of US Election Countdown, where I’ll be taking you through the stories that matter on money and politics in the race for the White House. Brace yourselves for the ride and get in touch by emailing

Though there are still 259 days until election day — which will almost certainly feature the 2020 presidential rematch nobody wanted — we already have a fundraising record.

President Joe Biden raised more than $42mn last month, leaving him with an unprecedented $130mn campaign re-election war chest (free to read), even as anxieties about his age swirl and he polls weakly.

But his political strengths have been underestimated before. His campaign said today its cash on hand was more than any Democratic candidate had ever hauled at this stage in the election cycle, fuelled by grassroots support.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has not released last month’s fundraising data, but his affiliated groups had $66mn in cash on hand at the end of 2023, compared with Biden’s $118mn. The $52mn difference amounted to the former president’s legal costs.

And while Trump’s legal battles suck up money from his political action committees, the candidate himself might be a little strapped for cash.

Trump was ordered by a New York judge on Friday to pay $350mn in penalties for “blatant” fraud for vastly overstating the value of his real estate empire to get better loan terms, a crushing financial blow. He was also banned from doing business in the state for three years.

The decision capped off a week of courtroom scenes straight out of Law & Order: Presidential during which a Manhattan judge teed up the first criminal trial of a former president in US history for March 25. Cue shots of Trump at the defendant’s table, forced off the campaign trail, for proceedings expected to last six weeks. Dun dun.

Naturally, Trump blamed Biden for Friday’s ruling, calling it a “witch hunt” against the Democratic president’s political opponent worthy of a “banana republic”. Trump’s campaign was quick to send out fundraising emails following the judgment, as the former president harnessed his legal troubles to rally his Maga crowd and fill his coffers with their cash.

“DEMOCRAT NEW YORK JUDGE JUST RULED AGAINST ME!” his campaign wrote to supporters, dubbing the ruling “UNDENIABLE ELECTION INTERFERENCE” to get them to chip in.

As if nothing had happened, he made an appearance at Sneaker Con the next day to peddle his latest merch: $400 Trump-branded trainers — shiny gold, featuring a “T” and the American flag, with red soles that will raise the eyebrows of those who strut around in Christian Louboutins. 

Donald Trump and his Trump-branded trainers
Donald Trump introduces a new line of branded trainers at Sneaker Con, an event celebrating trainers, streetwear and urban culture © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Campaign clips: the latest election headlines

  • With the election of Tom Suozzi, Democrats recaptured the US House seat in New York vacated by George Santos when he was expelled from Congress, narrowing a razor-thin Republican majority even further. The win could give Democrats a potential road map for challenging Republicans on issues such as immigration and abortion

  • Before the US justice department released special counsel Robert Hur’s report that enveloped the nation in a debate over Biden’s age, the White House wrote letters to complain about it (NYT)

  • Nikki Haley is making a last-ditch attempt to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in South Carolina, despite calls for her to drop out

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on the US 2024 race, saying he prefers Biden over Trump

  • Apparently, almost one-third of Republicans believe the conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift is part of a “covert government effort” to re-elect Biden (Washington Post)

Behind the scenes

Georgia governor Brian Kemp is one of the majority of American voters who does not want to give Biden credit for what is going well for the US economy.

Kemp, a moderate Republican, clashed with Trump over not helping the former president overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, a state that flipped to the Democrats and was key to Biden’s victory.

But he insisted to the FT’s Claire Jones that “all of the Republicans running would do better than Joe Biden” in November.

Georgia is having an economic boom, which US senator Jon Ossoff, who represents the state, told the FT has been spurred by Biden’s flagship Inflation Reduction Act.

But Kemp claims the legislation’s tax breaks have made things worse and are manipulating the market. “A lot of what the IRA has done, besides throwing money at something that was coming anyway, [has] also heated the market up and driven costs to go up,” he said.

The most recent FT-Michigan Ross poll showed 60 per cent of voters disapprove of how Biden is handling the economy, despite historically low unemployment, strong gross domestic product and wage growth, and even record stock market highs, all of which one would expect to be better received.


With the 2024 presidential race under way, it is worth looking back at the previous election for some context.

While Biden won the national popular vote comfortably in 2020, receiving 81.28mn votes to Trump’s 74.22mn, the results in key battleground states were much tighter.

In the three states that secured Biden an electoral college majority — Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin — his margin of victory was tiny, comprising fewer than 43,000 votes in total.

By this metric, the 2020 election was slightly closer than Trump’s 2016 victory, and the closest since 2000, when George W Bush beat Al Gore in Florida by just a few hundred votes.


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