Joe Biden Wants to Abolish the Fees Donald Trump Charges at His Resorts

Welcome to Trail Mix, a fun but nutritious snack for your election news diet. See something interesting on the trail? Email me at jake.lahut@thedailybeast.com.

This week, we have an exclusive preview of a new line of attack on Donald Trump. Plus, Nikki Haley’s new dilemma and Trumpworld’s sleeper cabinet pick.

Biden resorts to a fresh Trump attack

Ahead of the 2024 election, President Joe Biden is making an example out of businesses charging Americans pesky fees they hate, but have little choice in coughing up.

Coincidentally—or not—it just so happens that Biden’s likely opponent, former President Donald Trump, has raked in a small fortune on those very same fees.

At least three of Trump’s hotel properties bill guests for a “resort fee,” a sneaky and pricey charge that covers an array of unspecified amenities, and typically only appears at the end of the online reservation process.

The Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, for instance, was built on a three-acre parking lot and doesn’t have the sprawling features and amenities of a typical resort there. But it charges a one-time resort fee of $132—nearly as much as the $159 rate for one night in a king room at the hotel in January.

Meanwhile, a room with an ocean view at the Trump International Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii might be listed for as low as $499 per night. But with a daily resort fee of $125, the total cost of a three night stay balloons closer to $2,000, once the $375 in resort fees and local taxes kick in.

Trump’s golf resort property in Doral, Florida, also charges a one-time $135 resort fee, a healthy chunk of the $319 nightly rate for a king room there.

While Democrats and Republicans have spent years trying and largely failing to make Trump’s business practices a political liability, for Biden’s team, focusing on these fees may offer a novel way to both attack their opponent and burnish the president’s own record.

“Joe Biden working to eliminate the sky-high junk fees Donald Trump greedily charges guests at his failing hotels perfectly encapsulates the difference in their values,” Biden campaign spokesperson T.J. Ducklo told The Daily Beast. “It’s Scranton vs Park Ave., middle class vs. the billionaire class and it’s why voters can’t trust Trump in the White House to fight for them.”

The Biden campaign also isn’t ruling out highlighting these fees in their paid campaign ads next year.

The Biden White House’s executive order on corporate fees would require companies to show the full cost of a product or service up front, instead of tacking on fees at checkout. In his October announcement of the move, Biden decried the American public getting “taken advantage of and played for suckers” by abusers of the fees.

Trump is just one of many players in the hospitality industry seizing on resort fees as a way to pad their bottom lines; some estimates indicate they bring in $3 billion a year for the sector.

The Biden campaign’s comments to The Daily Beast on Trump’s use of these fees marks the first time they’ve leveraged them as an explicit election attack. The Trump campaign and Trump Organization did not return a request for comment.

In addition to highlighting Trump’s own business practices, the Biden campaign’s emphasis on fees run rampant is an opportunity to refresh their economic message, according to pollsters and Democratic Party figures.

“Bidenomics needs explaining; junk fees don’t,” pollster Mileah Kromer told The Daily Beast, invoking the president’s somewhat controversial embrace of his own spin on “Reaganomics.”

According to pollsters, Biden could make the most inroads with voters who have soured on him by highlighting his efforts to lower rising prices for goods and services.

Kromer, a political science professor at Goucher College in Maryland, recently wrote that “voters remember and reward politicians who saved them a direct household expense more than any argument based on macro-level economic indicators. Voters care about the economy in front of them.”

In the event of a Biden-Trump rematch, one of the biggest challenges facing the campaigns will be finding new lines of attack. Voters may have heard of Trump and his companies stiffing contractors, duping college students, dodging tax bills, or cutting corners to the detriment of his tenants, but things like resort fees are more cut and dry.

“I think that’s something that everyone has seen on a bill from a hotel and cringed at, and sometimes simple messages are the most effective messages,” Kromer told The Daily Beast. “Even if it’s not an extreme amount of money, people remember the person who tried to make it a little bit cheaper for them, and the polling shows that cost-of-living indicators are the biggest economic issue for voters right now.”

For Democrats like former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)—who made his name and made law as an anti-corporate crusader—the fees-based messaging isn’t just about Trump. It’s also about the Federal Reserve, a more consequential actor than the president when it comes to inflation.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Frank said it’s “discouraging we haven’t gotten more credit on the economy,” but as long as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell keeps counting on higher interest rates and cooling wages to bring down inflation, the Biden campaign needs to find tangible ways for voters to save money.

“Going after junk fees makes great sense from that standpoint,” Frank said.

As Kromer emphasized, Biden can only make those inroads on the economy if he slaps his name onto the right messaging and keeps it simple. Above all, she said, his team needs to be taking credit for initiatives like the pending ban on profit-padding fees.

“But they only remember it—and this is the reason Trump put his name on all of those stimulus checks—when you tell them you did it,” Kromer said.

Haley’s dilemma

Nikki Haley’s favorite sight on the campaign trail doubles as a sign of how much harder the 2024 primary is about to get for her as the most viable Trump alternative.

At recent events, the former South Carolina governor has kicked things off with a show of hands from the crowd to see who’s showing up to see her for the first time. The Haley campaign puts a premium on these first impressions in Iowa and New Hampshire, but each palm raised brings with it a new type of problem for the former Trump Cabinet official.

The same qualities Haley has relied upon to rise in the polls and attract donors are going to make the next phase of her presidential bid all the more difficult. Her messaging discipline, aversion to risk, and carefully worded swipes at her former boss all helped in getting her to the No. 2 slot, but they also could also ensure she never closes the gap between her and Trump.

Haley continues to avoid taking questions from the press on the trail and keeps the Trump trash talk to a minimum—often talking about the former president as if he were a helpless bystander without agency, such as saying “rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him” at a recent stop in South Carolina.

When Haley scored a major win for her campaign this week by snagging an endorsement and promise of support from the Koch brothers’ political network, a slight shudder ran down the spine of alumni from one of Trump’s fallen 2016 rivals.

“The Koch network endorsed Marco at about the same point in 2016,” a senior staffer from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign told The Daily Beast. This time around, the ex-Rubio staffer said, Haley has the benefit of a smaller field and more establishment and donor consolidation behind her run. However, they cautioned, “clearly Donald Trump is in a much stronger position today than he was eight years ago.”

This is where the opinion differs on what Haley should do about it.

For some Haley supporters, such as a prominent New Hampshire lawmaker the Haley team pried away from Chris Christie’s camp, the less she talks about Trump, the better.

“They’re sick of hearing from their liberal friends about how bad Trump is, and they’re sick of hearing from their conservative friends about how bad Biden is,” the Haley supporter, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said of the state’s famously independent voters. “The big question is how flexible and gettable are the rest of the voters in this primary?”

The Rubio alum, drawing on personal experience, saw it far differently. “That’s a great strategy for not beating Trump—I don’t think you can run against somebody by pretending they don’t exist,” they said. “In a lot of ways, that’s what everyone tried to do in 2016, and he coasted to the nomination as a result.”

For now, Haley’s approach is to stick to what’s been working as she makes those all-important first impressions in the early voting states. Her stump speech was barely changed at a Wednesday stop near Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

“I’ve watched a lot of Republican focus groups where they say, ‘I like the tax cuts, and I like the Supreme Court picks, but man, I really don’t like the tweets,’” the former Rubio staffer said.

They recommended a simple approach for Haley: “It’s reminding people about those tweets, and having Trump as our nominee is gonna bring those back, the chaos.”

Secretary Doug?

Having failed to qualify for the most recent GOP primary debate and with scant hopes of making the next one, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, it’s safe to say, will not be the next president of the United States.

But he might end up working for whoever is.

While Burgum’s presidential bid hasn’t exactly turned heads, his rivals have noticed the potential upside in bringing him into the fold as a top surrogate or even Cabinet pick—especially in Trump’s orbit.

For the former president, Burgum offers some irresistible upside. For one, he’s a multi-millionaire, like several of Trump’s former Cabinet secretaries. He hasn’t gotten crosswise with the former president and his followers. And crucially for any potential addition to Trumpworld, he looks the part.

“He’s out of central casting, he’s a good-looking dude,” a GOP strategist in Trumpworld told The Daily Beast. “He’s tall, he wears the power suit. President Trump also respects that he’s been a very successful business executive, has been a pretty conservative governor and hasn’t said many negative things about Trump.”

Another source close to the Trump campaign described Burgum as “a very fine-looking and well-spoken gentleman” whose performances on TV have not gone unnoticed in Trump’s lairs at Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster.

Without posing a threat to the former president, Burgum’s stock has steadily risen from a more pigeonholed vision of where he could fit in.

Hailing from a prairie state with more than 1.7 million acres of federal land, Burgum was initially floated as a potential Secretary of the Interior, but the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration have also come up as potential homes for him in a second Trump administration, according to two sources close to the Trump campaign.

When asked whether Burgum would entertain an administration post, the North Dakota governor’s campaign had no comment.

Off The Beaten Path

Ron’s participation trophy. Right before the very end of the Koch network memo endorsing Haley this week, Ron DeSantis earned a brief shoutout as a “tremendous leader for the State of Florida” and “a strong advocate for many important freedom oriented policies and fiscal responsibility in the Sunshine State.” Then came the tough news in the compliment sandwich: “However … Donald Trump won the nomination in 2016 largely because of a divided primary field, and we must not allow that to happen again, particularly when the stakes are even higher in 2024.”

Coming to a Chris Christie ad near you. Several of the former New Jersey governor’s stops in New Hampshire recently have been hosted by the Tell It Like It Is PAC, and when he was in Nashua ahead of the Thanksgiving break, an extensive setup could be seen at the back of the hall—a mini-control room similar to the one Dean Phillips used from his deleted town hall live stream. There were multiple cameras tracking Christie around the Elks Lodge, and the footage could end up in ads blanketing the Greater Boston airwaves as Christie makes his final stand against Trump.

Polling station

Pollsters keep bringing up the same cautionary note when trying to understand Trump’s support in the 2024 GOP primary: Trump supporters, they say, keep proving to be more committed and less likely to change their minds compared to the hodgepodge of GOP voters the rest of the field has managed to scrounge up.

“If you start with the premise that most people don’t care about politics most of the time—and they make up their mind on who they’re going to vote for based on their party identification, then they’ll rationalize why they support that candidate going forward—then there’s a pretty good case to be made Trump’s supporters were undersampled in 2020,” said Andrew Smith, a pollster at the University of New Hampshire.

Now, candidates like DeSantis are claiming the opposite is happening, and Trump’s support is actually overinflated.

Smith isn’t buying the argument.

“If anything, it’s less socially acceptable to be a Trump supporter now than it was in 2016 or 2020,” Smith said, adding that the sampling issues remain a problem in trying to accurately poll Republicans.

But once someone gets them on the phone, Trump voters are much more firm in their support than other respondents. The most recent Monmouth University-Washington Post poll found Trump voters are both far more likely to say they’re “extremely motivated” to vote in the primary—78 percent compared to an average of 51 percent for everyone else—and they’re also far less likely to even consider a second choice.

With plenty of movement still possible before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, those second choice numbers will be the ones to watch. Christie appears to have already taken note that well over half of his supporters say their second choice is Haley, and he’s doing all he can to poison the well.

Campaign Lit

Everybody hates Matt Gaetz. The Venmo villain has become a rare constant in a chaotic Capitol Hill where, at any moment, “there’s a non-zero chance one of his colleagues tries to physically fight him,” Sam Brodey reports.

Last of the Kildees. With Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) planning to retire, 2024 will be the first time in 50 years a member of the family hasn’t been on the ballot in Michigan. Riley Rogerson reports on whether Democrats can carry on the legacy.

Ron Didn’t Start the Fire. The DeSantis failure to launch has left a candidate stuck on repeat and surrounded by bitter infighting at a crucial juncture in the primary, Jake Lahut reports.

The Vivek-to-Don Pipeline. Vivek Ramaswamy’s political director, Brian Swensen, is jumping ship to join the Trump campaign, according to The Messenger’s Tom LoBianco. Swensen, a Florida native, has ties to top Trump adviser Susie Wiles.

What is Mark Cuban doing? Business Insider’s Madison Hall breaks down the curious timing of the Texas billionaire clearing up his schedule, as well as some cash, by selling his Dallas Mavericks basketball team and leaving the TV show Shark Tank.

No Convention. The big-money third-party group “No Labels” is scrapping its plans for an in-person convention in Dallas, Axios’ Hans Nichols reports.


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