For President Biden and former President Trump, it was a tale of two very different weeks.
Biden, rebounding from one of the biggest errors of his presidency, flew to Florida to comfort mourning families after the Surfside condo tragedy, and then closed the week by touting a strong jobs report.
The Florida trip earned praise from Republicans and even a bipartisan photo-op with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential presidential rival and Trump loyalist.
The two politicians complimented one another and received applause from observers for putting politics aside.
“Great week for the boss,” one longtime Biden aide said Friday without hesitation.
Trump’s week was a mirror opposite of Biden’s.
It started relatively strong, with Saturday’s rally in Ohio that allowed the former president to get back to what he loves the most, freelance speaking in front of a crowd of his adoring fans.
The trip was a return to the spotlight of sorts for Trump, who followed it up with a visit to the border with Republican lawmakers. There, he blasted Biden’s policies on the border, which polls show is a weak spot for the president, whose overall approval ratings remain above 50 percent.
Yet the week closed disastrously for Trump, with the indictment of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. While there are no charges against the former president, the case from the Manhattan district attorney’s office threatens to engulf him, his businesses and his family in a long court drama that could hurt his political future.
In an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, Trump called the charges a “continuation of the witch hunt that started when I came down the escalator” for his presidential announcement in 2015.
The sequence of events provided one of the sharper contrasts between Biden and his predecessor since taking office in late January. And it could be a week people look back on if Trump and Biden end up running against one another again in 2024, as Trump has hinted.
Biden recently brushed off questions about his former presidential rival, telling reporters “I know nothing” about the indictment and “even if I did, I wouldn’t comment on an ongoing case.”
At the same time, he played up other qualities that offered an inherent contrast: a willingness to work with the opposing party and a compassionate approach to a chaotic situation.
Biden met behind closed doors with family members struggling in South Florida on Thursday and offered public remarks intended to heal, a familiar tone for the president who has experienced a great deal of personal grief losing his first wife and baby in a car accident and more recently his adult son, Beau, to brain cancer.
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“We’re here for you as one nation,” Biden said during his trip. He called the families “incredible people.”
The visit provided a chance for Biden to show a desire to engage productively with DeSantis, who has been consistently addressing Florida residents after the devastating collapse.
Speaking with the president, the Republican governor said: “You guys have not only been supportive at the federal level, but we’ve had no bureaucracy.”
Biden announced that more federal aid would be sent to Florida through an emergency declaration on Friday afternoon.
Democrats in the state applauded Biden’s decision to spend a big portion of the day meeting with families and local officials, as well as his willingness to table partisan politics in a time of crisis.
“It’s not surprising that the president has a meeting with the governor,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz told The Hill. “That’s the man we elected president. Especially when it comes to human beings and human suffering, that’s him.”
Diaz, who has known Biden for many years, said his outing is also different from what Floridians often witnessed during critical moments in the Trump administration.
“The last four years we saw very little empathy coming from the White House,” he said. “Most of the things that were done were all strictly political.”
Republican strategist Doug Heye said Biden’s visit to the state showed the “stark dichotomy” between the two men.
“He was competently and compassionately handling a crisis in a state that didn’t vote for him with a governor from the other party,” Heye said.
While back in Washington, Biden talked up what he sees as some of the White House’s biggest successes fewer than six months into his presidency.
“The economy’s growing faster than any time in 40 years, we’ve got a record number of new jobs,” Biden said in an address about the American Jobs Plan, a top legislative priority. “COVID deaths are down 90 percent, wages are up faster than any time in 15 years, we’re bringing our troops home.”
Biden has steadily polled above a 50 percent approval rating. “For a Democrat, it’s hard to do,” a second Democratic operative with direct ties to the president said candidly.
A June jobs report that totaled 850,000 new positions is another indicator of his economic success so far, said the source close to Biden.
“This is a huge turnaround,” the source added. “For the first time workers are feeling that they have a voice and they have a certain power in the marketplace. That’s good for the economy.”
As Democrats promoted a positive week, Trump and GOP officials struggled to redirect the narrative in their favor, with the former president at one point attacking the highest-ranking Republican in the upper chamber of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Trump also battled his former Attorney General William Barr’s new stance that the Trump administration’s election fraud claims were factually inaccurate, despite questioning the outcome for months.
Just days later, Democrats in the House announced a special commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, a violent day inspired by Trump’s election illegitimacy rhetoric.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) strongly condemned the formation of the commission, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), and reportedly warned GOP members of his caucus that their House committee assignments could be taken away if they join Pelosi’s effort. McCarthy denied those reports.
While the week ended better for Biden than Trump, Heye suggested it would be foolish to put too much stake into the week.
“What this translates to politically is hard to determine,” he said. “It didn’t tell me anything. Trump’s ultimate line of I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue still rings true. Electorally I don’t think it meant anything.”