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New $50 million Biden ad campaign targets Trump felony convictions

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Adds Trump campaign's comment in paragraph 5

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) -President Joe Biden's campaign will target Republican challenger Donald Trump's felony convictions as part of a $50 million ad campaign ahead of the first presidential debate between both candidates on June 27.

The move, one of the largest advertising spends of the campaign so far, marks a notable shift in Biden's approach to Trump's conviction after the president's initial reluctance to weigh in on the issue, to avoid engaging with Trump's legal woes.

"Character Matters," a 30-second ad that says "this election is between a convicted criminal who's only out for himself, and a president who's fighting for your family," drawing a contrast between the two candidates, will run in all battleground states that have switched between Republicans and Democrats in recent elections, starting on Monday.

Trump was convicted by a New York jury on May 30 of 34 felony counts for falsifying business records.

"Crooked Joe Biden and the Democrats' weaponized the justice system against President Trump and this new ad once again proves the sham trial was always meant to be election interference, but Americans see through it," Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt wrote on the social media platform X.

Biden and Trump remain tied in national polls with less than five months to go before the election, while Trump has the edge in the battleground states that will decide it, polls conducted before the conviction show. On economic issues like inflation, Trump scores higher with voters overall than Biden.

Biden's campaign and several Democrats were initially reluctant to emphasize Trump's conviction, taking a wait-and-see approach to advertising and new strategies. They wanted to see polls and voter feedback before reacting strongly.

Earlier this month, at a fundraiser with a small group of donors in Greenwich, Connecticut, Biden for the first time called Trump a "convicted felon" and said his predecessor poses a higher threat to the United States if he wins another term.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted just after Trump's conviction found 10% of Republican voters said they are less likely to vote for Trump in November after his conviction, a significant number given the narrow margins that decide U.S. presidential elections.

Trump also faces criminal charges in three other cases: a Georgia election interference case, a Florida documents case and a federal election interference case. He is also appealing the results of his civil trials.

Biden's son Hunter was this month convicted by a jury for lying about his illegal drug use to buy a gun, making him the first child of a sitting U.S. president to be convicted of a crime. Polls including one from Reuters/Ipsos shows a vast majority of voters say Hunter's conviction won't affect their vote in the Nov. 5 election.

The June 27 debate between Biden and Trump, billed as one of the most significant moments of this year's campaign calendar, is less than two weeks away, and both campaigns are preparing for the first showdown.

The debate will include two commercial breaks, no props and muted microphones except when recognized to speak, CNN, which will host the debate in Atlanta, said on Saturday.

The Biden campaign's fundraising in April lagged Trump's for the first time, after the former president ramped up his joint operation with the Republican National Committee and headlined high-dollar fundraisers.

Democrats still maintained an overall cash advantage over Trump and the Biden campaign continues to have a considerably larger war chest. On Saturday, Biden raised $30 million at a star-studded fundraiser in Los Angeles.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmmons, Lincoln Feast and Bill Berkrot


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