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Tipsheet

Can Trump Ride the Indictment Wave All the Way to the GOP Nomination?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

We’re bound to revisit this since it’s so early in the 2024 cycle, but for now—Trump has cleared the field. Even Ron DeSantis, a favorite for those in the GOP looking for an alternative candidate, couldn’t catch up to the former president now. The Florida governor has yet to announce his much-anticipated candidacy, but after seeing these numbers, he should also consider not running. Everyone knows the fate of those who have tried to take on Trump: they’ve all suffered unrecoverable political blows. Almost everyone who ran in 2016, once considered a deep bench, has been eviscerated, not even mentioned in presidential talks. That year was the Battle of Stamford Bridge for Republicans, and Trump emerged on top for good. 

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While liberals rejoiced over the Manhattan grand jury indictment against Trump, alleging his hush money payment agreement with a former porn star was an egregious campaign finance violation, the GOP circled the wagons around the former president. Despite his rambunctious disposition, polls show that Trump doesn’t turn off most Republicans and have found his impact on the party more positive than negative. There was a point where less than 50 percent of GOP voters thought he should run again; it’s now at 63 percent post-indictment (via WaPo):

 A CBS News-YouGov poll released Monday got at this perhaps better than any post-indictment poll. 

It showed the percentage of Republicans who said it was “very important” to be loyal to Trump rising from 35 percent in both September and January to 46 percent today. And those labeling it “somewhat important” or “very important” have increased from two-thirds to around three-fourths. 

What CBS’s write-up didn’t note: That 46 percent who said it was “very important” is familiar. It’s precisely where things stood the last time Trump was officially targeted for his conduct, during his 2021 impeachment. 

YouGov has also reinforced this in its regular tracking polls. 

After a rough 2022 election for Trump’s handpicked candidates, the percentage of Republicans who wanted Trump to run in 2024 dipped below 50 percent at one point. And it stuck at right around half until early March. 

But then the news of Trump’s potential indictment broke on March 9, with the Manhattan district attorney seeking a grand jury interview with Trump. And in weekly YouGov polling spanning that news, the percentage who wanted Trump to run shot up from 50 percent to 63 percent, which is about where it remains today. 

[…] 

After the 2022 election, Quinnipiac University showed Republicans saying that Trump’s impact on the party was mostly positive rather than mostly negative by a 46-point margin. Its most recent poll, conducted shortly before Trump’s actual indictment in late March, showed that rising to a 53-point margin. 

The same poll showed Trump’s favorability split among Republicans (favorable views minus unfavorable views) rising even more: from 51 points positive in December (71-20) to 64 points positive (79-15) in late March. 

The last time 8 in 10 Republicans had a favorable view of Trump in Quinnipiac’s regular polling was 2021.

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For Trump supporters, this is welcome news, a sign that the former president should clinch the nomination again for a rematch with Biden. That’s also what Democrats want, seeing Trump as the more damaged of the potential candidates on the Republican side. While Trump’s influence within the GOP is re-entrenching itself, there is also evidence that Mr. Trump has worn out his welcome beyond the die-hard base, and there’s more than enough to block him from the White House again. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, the GOP fell way short of its goals. Now, this fact will be hidden by the competitiveness of the race. The Trump coalition is quite geographically diverse, with just enough voters living in areas that decide elections to make things interesting. It’s why despite approvals in the mid-to-low-40s, Trump keeps Democratic strategists up at night. They slept on him in 2016; they won’t make that error again. 

So, for now, it seems Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has made an in-kind contribution to the Trump 2024 campaign, whether it is a trojan horse or not. Always be wary of Democrats pushing a man they hate to be the GOP nominee in the next election. Now, does that mean DeSantis is better? No. But I can see Trump riding the indictment wave to the nomination, getting the GOP base behind him, and then falling short again in the general election, even with Biden showing signs of mental decline on the trail, which will be fraught with stories about how the economic recession is killing working families. Even then, I think Biden pulls it out because folks aren’t willing to give Trump another shot. That’s just me. If voters elected a man whose brain functions are irreparably damaged to the US Senate as they did in Pennsylvania, anything goes.

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