Michael Cohen is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger before Justice Juan Merchan © Reuters

This is an on-site version of the US Election Countdown newsletter. You can read the previous edition here. Sign up for free here to get it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email us at electioncountdown@ft.com

Good morning and welcome to US Election Countdown. Today we’re getting into:

  • Fears of a campaign ‘disaster’

  • Trump’s veepstakes

  • More bad polling for Biden

Michael Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness in Donald Trump’s “hush money” trial, took the stand yesterday, testifying that the former president thought that revelations of an alleged extra-marital affair with a porn actor would be disastrous for his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump’s former fixer and lawyer told the court that when the soon-to-be-president heard that the porn actor Stormy Daniels was threatening to go public with her story, he said, “women are going to hate me” and declared: “This is going to be a disaster for the campaign.” He then testified that Trump ordered him to quash Daniels’s story.

Cohen is considered the linchpin in the Manhattan district attorney’s office’s criminal case against the ex-president. He’s expected to take the stand again today.

Prosecutors are hoping his testimony will convince the jury that Trump was involved in the “hush money” payments during his first White House bid, and that Cohen was explicitly working on behalf of the campaign. This would support their argument that Trump broke the law by directing Cohen to make the payment to Daniels and to hide it from voters by classifying it as a legal expense.

Trump’s ex-fixer said he was bracing for “a lot of women coming forward” once Trump launched his presidential bid. Prosecutors allege that Cohen organised payments to people who were threatening to make public salacious stories about Trump.

Cohen used his own money to pay Daniels $130,000, and served time in prison after pleading guilty to an array of federal charges including tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

The prosecution is beginning to wind down its case, with only one more witness expected to testify. Last week, Daniels shared details of her alleged sexual encounter with the ex-president, and was cross-examined by Trump’s lawyers, who accused her of profiting off of her claims of the affair.

Campaign clips: the latest election headlines

Behind the scenes

Donald Trump, left, pictured with Marco Rubio in Miami in 2022
Donald Trump, left, pictured with Marco Rubio in Miami in 2022 © Getty Images

Trump’s veepstakes are in full swing, as his fellow Republicans vie to be his White House running mate.

Since Trump needs to fund both the campaign and his mounting legal bills, donors have a particularly important voice in this pick, and they like what they see in Florida senator Marco Rubio, reports the FT’s Alex Rogers. [Free to read]

While some politicians close to the ex-president think he should field one of his so-called Maga candidates for the bottom of the ticket, donors think Trump needs a candidate who could appeal to voters outside his base.

At a recent Republican event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Rubio was swarmed by donors. Trump, meanwhile, tried to gauge how his audience reacted to a list of potential VPs. “Marco, by far, was the one who had the most attention,” said a Republican strategist who attended the fundraiser. “Rubio was mobbed from start to finish,” said another person.

President of the Nevada Republican Club Pauline Ng Lee, who will co-host a fundraiser for Trump next month, said a candidate like Rubio would “pull in a greater, wider array of Republicans and nonpartisans — and even some moderate Democrats”.

Megadonor Art Pope, who originally backed Nikki Haley, said Trump’s running mate choice would determine whether he supports the former president.


Joe Biden had made some progress convincing voters that he was better suited to handle the US economy than Donald Trump — but those benefits seem to have evaporated, according to recent polling.

The electorate is still stressing about rising prices, which threaten Biden’s re-election prospects. 

Voters polled between May 2 and May 6 were less supportive of the president’s economic policies than they were previously: 58 per cent didn’t approve of how he’s handling the economy, up from 55 per cent in April, according to the FT-Michigan Ross poll

Only 40 per cent of voters approved of how Biden is managing the economy, and just 28 per cent said Biden was helping the economy, down four points from last month. And more than half of survey respondents believe they’re worse off since Biden became president.

Fresh consumer price data will be out tomorrow, and Biden will certainly be hoping that economists are correct in predicting that inflation fell in April.

Looking at Trump, the FT-Michigan poll found that more than half of voters said that the former president represented the interest of Wall Street and large corporations, while Biden is viewed more positively by labour unions.

Both candidates are keen to court working-class voters — a group that was critical to Trump’s win in 2016. 


  • Jemima Kelly wonders if right-wing firebrand congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene is “too Maga” for Trump.

  • Edward Luce thinks it’s time for popcorn as Trump’s veepstakes hit box-office entertainment levels. 

  • With the spectre of 1968 looming, Democrats are preparing for their convention in Chicago without the help of rookie mayor Brandon Johnson, who sympathises with protesters, writes Jonathan Martin. (Politico Magazine)

Recommended newsletters for you

Breaking News — Be alerted to the latest stories as soon as they’re published. Sign up here

International morning headlines — Start your day with the latest news stories, from markets to geopolitics. Sign up here

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article