Trump rolls out the red carpet for foreign leaders, irking Biden allies: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, we report on how Donald Trump’s recent meetings with foreign leaders are rubbing President Joe Biden’s allies the wrong way. Plus, chief political analyst Chuck Todd explains why Biden’s climb this November may be even steeper than it first seems.

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Trump’s sit-downs with foreign leaders are ‘annoying’ some in Biden’s camp

By Jonathan Allen, Carol E. Lee and Katherine Doyle

As Donald Trump rolled out the red carpet for a parade of foreign dignitaries in recent weeks, some aides to President Joe Biden took notice — and umbrage — at what they saw as the former president playing pretender-in-chief.

In less than two months, Trump has hosted Polish President Andrzej Duda, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and David Cameron, the former British prime minister who now serves as the U.K.’s foreign secretary. He’s also talked with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and others by phone.

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It’s not unusual for a party nominee to meet with foreign officials — but that’s typically done overseas and with leaders below the level of president or prime minister. Trump has made a show of bringing these dignitaries to his homes — Mar-a-Lago for some, Trump Tower for others — and treating them to some of the trappings of a state visit. That, in particular, has stuck in the craw of some Biden aides, according to three people familiar with the frustrations.

A picture of a delicate power dance emerged in interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with aspects of U.S. foreign policy and the Biden and Trump campaigns. Biden and Trump are tussling over which of them has more clout at home and overseas, while foreign leaders seek to influence American policy, bolster their own standing at home and hedge their bets by cozying up to both candidates.

While the pomp and circumstance of visits to Trump’s homes aren’t official, the political and policy implications of the meetings are real, and that has presented a conundrum for Biden’s team.

“On the official side, it might be helpful,” one longtime Biden ally said of Trump hearing from the likes of Duda and Cameron, who advocated for the Ukraine aid bill that Biden signed last month. “On the political side, it’s annoying to see it happen because [Trump] tries to capitalize.”

For some of the same reasons, Trump’s allies love the optics of his series of sit-downs. As he defends himself against criminal charges in federal and state courts, these foreign officials — most of them far-right politicians — are providing validation for Trump. The meetings may also suggest to voters that the world sees a Trump comeback as a real possibility.

“At some level,” one Trump aide said, “they believe [Trump] can win — will win.”

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Biden’s challenge is much greater than we realize

By Chuck Todd

If Biden is to win a second term, he’s going to have to do it while having a near majority of the country wishing it could elect someone else.

The most recent Pew Research Center survey had a fascinating question that produced one of the more compelling analyses I’ve seen about the true nature of Biden voters and Trump voters.

Half of all voters surveyed said they would like to see both Biden and Trump replaced on the ballot. But note how those voters break when they’re forced to choose between two candidates they wish weren’t running. A whopping 62% of Biden voters would prefer that both Biden and Trump weren’t on the ballot. That’s a lot of “hold your nose” voters.

For Trump, the mix of double-haters versus core supporters is more of a 1-to-1 ratio.

What does that mean? Biden’s challenge is even greater than we realize.

As Biden himself is fond of saying: Don’t judge him against the almighty but against the alternative. Well, it’s clear the only way he wins at this point is if he convinces enough people that a second Trump term isn’t worth the risk no matter how disappointed they’ve been in Biden’s first term.

It’s something that isn’t easy to pull off as an incumbent. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, did win re-election despite arguably being even more unpopular than Biden. But the threat of a Marine Le Pen-led far-right government was enough to move France’s disgruntled middle to reluctantly re-elect Macron.

Outside of that recent French example, I’m struggling to think of many elections in which someone has won with such tepid support. Trump has more supporters who are more enthusiastic about a second term than Biden does. In a lower-turnout election, that’s a huge advantage, and as I wrote last week, the possibility of a lower-turnout election is higher than we think, given the country’s lack of interest in this presidential rematch.

Bottom line: The country would prefer a new president, and it might have already given up on Biden. But neither party is offering the country anything or anyone new.

Read more from Chuck here →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

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