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The remarkably stable 2024 race: 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, senior political editor Mark Murray breaks down the latest NBC News poll, which shows a largely stable race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Plus, White House reporter Katherine Doyle recaps the fifth day of the Trump trial in New York.

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2024’s remarkably, stubbornly stable race — for now

By Mark Murray

The good news for President Joe Biden in our new national NBC News poll is that it appears he’s climbed out of the political hole he was in this winter: His overall approval rating is up 5 points from January, and he now trails former President Donald Trump by just 2 points among registered voters, down from 5 points three months ago.

The bad news for Biden is that his current political standing is back to where it was in the fall of 2023, when his re-election prospects already appeared to be on shaky ground.

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It underscores an important point: Despite all of the news, developments and drama over the past year, the Biden-Trump contest has been remarkably stable — and competitive — with any movement coming within the margin of error.

Take the two-way ballot test. Over the course of nearly a year, Trump’s percentage has been stuck from 45% to 47% of registered voters. Biden’s percentage, meanwhile, has hovered from a high of 49% in the summer of 2023 to a low of 42% this January.

Or take the names at the top of the ticket out of the equation and note the stable congressional preference. Right now, 47% prefer a GOP-controlled Congress in the poll, compared to 46% who want Democrats. The parties have been locked in that competitive position for years: The GOP number hasn’t moved more than 2 points in either direction in NBC News polling since August 2021, while the Democratic number dipped outside that range just once.

But the latest NBC News poll also points to at least three potential wild cards that could upend this stability.

Trump’s trial: While Trump’s multiple criminal indictments and legal challenges helped him with Republican primary voters in 2023 and early 2024, the NBC poll finds 50% of voters saying he’s being held to the same standard as anyone accused of such a crime, versus 43% who believe he’s being unfairly targeted.

Third party-candidates: For months, the conventional wisdom has been that the bigger the size of the third-party vote, the worse it would be for Biden. And that could still be the case, given that Trump’s consistent 46% to 47% vote share becomes a winning percentage if the third-party vote is greater than 6%. Yet the poll shows Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hurting Trump more than Biden at the moment.

Turnout: The level of high interest in this contest is at a nearly 20-year low, signaling that turnout in November could be significantly lower than it was in 2020. Does that lower turnout help Trump, given that more Republicans have high interest (70%) than Democrats do (65%)? Or does it help Biden, given that many of the voters who say they’re supporting Trump ended up not participating in the 2020 or 2022 elections?

These are all ways a stable race could quickly become unstable — and unpredictable.

Read the full story here →

Trump trial, day 5: The prosecutors lay out their case

By Katherine Doyle

More than a year after securing an indictment, New York prosecutors on Monday for the first time laid out their case against Donald Trump in a courtroom, weaving a story they say will prove that the former president, along with his “fixer” and a tabloid publisher, conspired to cover up hush money payments.

“This case is about a criminal conspiracy. Trump orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election,” said Matthew Colangelo, a lawyer with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office. “Then he covered up that criminal scheme by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again.”

The prosecution detailed allegations of a sensational tabloid scheme to “catch and kill” stories that could have proved damaging to Trump, a plan, the DA’s office said, that was elicited with Trump’s blessing and that he was directly implicated in.

Here’s what else happened on the fifth day of trial:

The ‘Access Hollywood’ tape emerges: Prosecutors have argued that when the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced during the 2016 campaign, it triggered the worry that led Trump and his allies to try to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, setting off the hush money payments.

Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that prosecutors can’t play the tape for jurors, but that government lawyers can read from the transcript. And before opening statements were over, prosecutors did just that. Colangelo quoted the tape to the jury, including Trump saying: “I just start kissing them … when you’re a star, they let you do anything.”

Trump faces a full jury for the first time: Merchan warned the full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates that they must guard carefully against outside bias as they listen to evidence in the case. While jurors may tell their employers that they are among the small group of New Yorkers who will judge Trump, they must not talk about it. Instead, as they listen to the evidence and render a verdict, they must avoid all news related to the case and not research the details or anyone involved.

A decision on possible Trump cross-examination: Trump slumped in his chair slightly with his eyes closed as Merchan read his ruling on allowing prosecutors to draw facts from prior cases should the former president testify.

After hearing six different proceedings involving 13 different determinations brought by the prosecution, Merchan said he had “greatly curtailed” the prosecution’s ability to elicit evidence, including ruling out two full prior cases.

Read more here →

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

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