How Will Trump’s Indictments Impact the Upcoming Election?

Former President Donald Trump has been indicted four times since March on both state and federal charges, resulting in 91 felony counts and making him the first U.S. President to have been brought up on criminal charges. The first indictment by the State of New York in March involves hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels using campaign funds and, in turn, falsifying business records. The second by Federal prosecutors in June, charged Trump with mishandling sensitive documents and conspiracy to obstruct the government. In August, he was federally charged with obstruction of the 2020 election, and later that month, he was charged with similar state counts pertaining to efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. The hush money trial will begin on March 25, 2024 at the height of the 2024 presidential campaign.

Though one might presume that these indictments would reduce support for the former president, Trump has only become more favored in light of them. The accusations, and specifically the resulting mugshot, ironically improved his popularity amongst the Right, who believe the trials are one big smear campaign fabricated by the Left.  According to NBC News, as of Oct. 21st, Trump is beating his Republican opposition by a long shot in the polls, with the support of roughly 52% of Republicans, and has raised over $7 million in campaign funds since the mugshots were taken in August.  By contrast, his closest runner up, Ron Desantis, polls at just 14% of the Republican vote.

The charges have improved Trump’s popularity amongst conservatives, but this may not be the unintentional win the Right is celebrating. All of the indictment trial dates take place between March and May of 2024, campaign season. As the accused, Trump will be required to be in person at the trials, keeping him off the campaign trail and missing critical opportunities to hold rallies and connect with voters. While this may hinder Trump’s success in the general elections, it may not necessarily guarantee the re-election of Joe Biden, whom the Democratic National Committee has already chosen as their democratic candidate.

Joe Biden’s approval ratings are not robust, with 54.1% of Americans disapproving of Biden as of Oct. 26 according to ABC News.  A poll from Reuters on Oct. 10 displays that 92% or Republicans disapprove while only 17% of Democrats disapprove.  Because of this, Biden may have Trump off his back, but he’ll just have to deal with one of the other candidates: Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, even Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who stands as a democratic opponent. Given Biden’s declining popularity and lack of charisma as compared to his rivals, it’s very possible that he’ll lose to a contestor. It is also entirely possible, assuming acquitted on all accounts, that Trump wins the election, regardless of his ability to campaign just given his popularity amongst the conservatives alone. On the other hand, another contestant to Biden such as Nikki Haley or RFK may be able to attract more voters from more parties (Republican, Independent, and Democrat), and may be able to do so more aptly without Trump as a threat. Either way, while it is possible the indictments may cost Trump the election, they are unlikely to win it for Joe.

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