In the final weeks of the presidential race, President Trump seems unable to stop playing on New York City.
He wrote on Twitter that his hometown “went to hell”. He said on Fox News this week that the city was so desperate that he could win the state in November – despite polls showing he is way behind. In both debates against Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump referred to New York as a ghost town.
“Look what happened to New York, it’s a ghost town. It is a ghost town, ”he said at the debate on Thursday evening. “I loved it for so many years, it was alive. It dies, everyone leaves New York. “
Mr Trump’s antagonistic stance is in stark contrast to Mr Biden, the former Vice President who made his home state of Delaware a central part of his narrative and referred to it several times in Thursday’s debate. For the president, demeaning New York seems to serve two purposes: it addresses his grassroots as a campaign strategy, and it enables him to discuss personal issues with his enemies.
While many New Yorkers feel that Mr. Trump has turned his back on the city, the feeling with Mr. Trump is mutual. The town voted for Hillary Clinton by an overwhelming majority in 2016. When he returned to Trump Tower, there were protests. His name has been stripped of skyscrapers.
Democratic prosecutors in New York deal with his family’s finances, and Democratic leaders like Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio frequently accuse him of betraying his hometown. Mr. Cuomo recently accused the President of “actively attempting to kill New York City since his election”.
Representative Peter T. King, who is close to Mr. Trump, says the city is a useful slide for the president “what happens when liberals take over”.
“If he wants a punching bag that will play with the rest of the country, New York City is the perfect destination,” he said. “You see the boarded-up buildings, you see the dramatic increase in crime, you see people going to the Hamptons.”
Mr Trump hasn’t seen much of the city’s troubles firsthand, however: the only visit he made to the city this year was to see his ailing brother before he died in August.
Despite his absence, his aides said Mr Trump was still proud to be from New York and even noted that the President had interrupted Mr Biden during Thursday’s debate to say he was born in Queens .
“President Trump loves New York City and, as you heard last night, is proud to be from Queens,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that included many complaints from Mr Trump, including “draconian shutdowns”. and high taxes.
“This is a failure of state and local leadership and this president is not going to let what happens to New York and many other places happen to the rest of the country,” he added.
Indeed, last month the president called the city an “anarchist jurisdiction” and threatened to cut its funding.
But he has also rejected initiatives that would benefit New York. He refused to sponsor a project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. he punished the city as a haven for undocumented immigrants; and he made it harder for New Yorkers to fly into airports in the battle for driver licenses for undocumented immigrants.
The president is now reluctant to give New York more coronavirus recovery funds, despite Mr. King asking him to reconsider. But the constant ridicule of Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio – including painting “Black Lives Matter” on the street outside Trump Tower – doesn’t help, Mr. King said. They could play nice, he suggested, or “at least tone it down”.
At this point, playing nicely would probably do little: Mr Trump appears to be viewing his hometown with such sharpness that his decision to officially move to Florida last year served as the de facto closing date for divorce papers.
Anthony Scaramucci, former Trump White House communications director, says the president sees his attacks as “red meat” for voters who are angry with elites on the east coast.
“He’s throwing New York under the bus because he thinks it will help him get re-elected,” said Mr Scaramucci, who broke with Mr Trump and supported Mr Biden.
“He is determined that these people are in battlefield states and disaffected areas of the country that east coasters, elitists and Wall Street despise,” Scaramucci said.
This strategy should look familiar to Mr. Trump: Four years ago, Senator Ted Cruz from Texas attacked “New York values” during a debate by the Republican President. Mr. Trump at the time resisted Mr. Cruz’s ridicule, saying the city was a “great place” with “wonderful people”.
But Mr. Trump’s tone of voice changed not long after the election, which saw New York voters side four to one with Ms. Clinton.
Oct 23, 2020 at 12:48 am ET
While Mr Trump says he wants to be competitive in New York State, he could do worse in this election than he did against Ms. Clinton. Mr Trump won around 36.5 percent of the state’s vote in 2016 and is voting less than 30 percent against Mr Biden.
His standing in New York declined during the height of the pandemic and following the Black Lives Matter protests when he said his “government will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” New York and two other cities.
The label “anarchist” could have a real impact on transit funding and other federal resources, despite New York officials filing a lawsuit Thursday against the possible funding cuts.
The two investigations in New York also clearly irritated Mr Trump. The Manhattan Attorney’s Office is investigating his tax returns as part of an investigation into the president and his business practices, which focus on potential crimes such as tax and insurance fraud and forgery of business records.
New York attorney general Letitia James is investigating whether the Trump family’s real estate company committed fraud, and Mr. Trump’s son Eric was forced to file a deposit on the matter this month.
Mr Trump often criticized the prosecution as politically motivated and unfounded, claiming on Twitter that the investigation was the product of a “politically corrupt New York”.
Given the harshness, Mr. Trump’s visits to New York have shrunk. He made some trips to town last year for the United Nations General Assembly, fundraiser, and an Ultimate Fighting Championship event at Madison Square Garden.
The President received a mixture of boos and applause in the garden, but Representative Peter King, who was with Mr. Trump, said the President was “in his glory.”
“The next morning at the hotel,” said Mr. King, “police officers and firefighters took pictures with him.”
But when the city’s largest police union backed Mr. Trump this summer, the rally wasn’t in New York. It was performed nearly 40 miles away at his Country Club in Bedminster, NJ
Mr Trump visited the Hamptons in August to raise funds and came to Manhattan later that month to visit his younger brother Robert Trump in the hospital. The President’s only other trip to the state that year was in June to deliver the address at West Point, about an hour’s drive north of town.
US presidents have long visited the sites of great tragedies and natural disasters. President George W. Bush visited New York after the 9/11 attacks, and President Barack Obama visited communities after mass shootings and tornadoes.
Mr Trump has also traveled to Florida and Puerto Rico after devastating hurricanes, and in May the president said he would visit New York City, where more than 20,000 people have died from the coronavirus, “when things calm down”. He didn’t do it.
Jesse Garcia, a Republican county leader on Long Island, said Mr. Trump showed his love for the city by providing aid through the $ 2 trillion CARES bill and the USNS Comfort Navy hospital ship along with the March Army sent a corps of engineers to the city.
“I think he’s scared of the ultra-light progressive socialist democrats who are rotting this wonderful city from the inside,” Garcia said.
The president’s comments on New York’s decline could also help Republicans in local suburban house races on Long Island, said Mr King, including those that featured Representatives Lee Zeldin and Andrew Garbarino, a state MP seeking to succeed Mr King who is not standing for re-election.
After so much trouble, Mr Cuomo said Mr Trump would need strong protection if he tried to return.
“Forget about bodyguards,” the governor told reporters last month. “He’d better have an army walking down the street in New York.”
Edward F. Cox, the former New York State Republican Party leader who works on Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, said the president had no concerns about returning despite Mr Cuomo’s threats.
“He can come here anytime,” said Mr. Cox. “He doesn’t need an army. There would be a few protesters, but he would be fine. “
Maggie Haberman contributed to the coverage.