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Why an indictment might help Trump — and threaten the GOP

Feel the opening, Trump campaign The transfer of the impending indictment began In a real test for the rest of the field: Either defend the former president, they warned, or brand them sympathetic to the left.

Even Trump’s GOP critics are starting to see the writing on the wall.

“It has become new Teflon headsaid Michael Broadcorp, a former vice chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and a longtime critic of Trump. “He’s someone who built his entire political empire on being a victim all the time, being a martyr, and that’s just another example.”

Throughout the Trump era, Trump has sought to turn one seemingly impeachment scandal after another in his favour. Sometimes it worked (the Access Hollywood tape wasn’t the stiletto everyone expected), and sometimes it struggled (the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot is still pretty unkind). In each case, he survived.

The upcoming expected indictment will test that again. Although the timing might hardly have been better for him yet. If he is caught this week, the early stages of the presidential primary will once again be framed around him, just like Pence, the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis and several other prominent Republicans are considering launching their own campaigns.

“It seems very clear that the left is trying everything they can to discredit former President Donald Trump,” said Bruce Cherry, chairman of the Republican Executive Committee of Florida’s Seminole County, who said that “the best ticket this state can have” would be Trump. as a presidential candidate alongside DeSantis, as his running mate. I feel the indictment means nothing.

Republicans say that if anything, Trump stands to benefit from a surge of support in the short term, just as he did after the FBI seized documents from the Mar-a-Lago estate last year. It may not show up in the national polls — independent and Democratic voters will be reminded of the drama and scandals that seem to perpetually follow Trump. But a national GOP strategist, who was granted anonymity to discuss the political ramifications, said the former president would likely enjoy immediate fundraising support in an unfriendly political environment.

“Young dollar donors are going low,” this person said. “This will motivate them. This proves that there is a witch hunt.”

on the right Social media channels Over the weekend, some Trump supporters were debating the merits of violent protest versus peaceful protest, loosely considering a truck driver’s strike or a bank run while others warned of a deep state “trap.” In contrast to Trump’s legal challenges in Fulton County, Georgia, and at a Jan. 28 special counsel investigation. 6, the case in New York is coming from the Manhattan attorney general, who is seen by many Republicans as a hotbed of excesses on the left.

“In that case, I think Republicans will rally around Trump initially,” said Wyatt Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster. In the long run, it depends on what happens in this case, as well as other criminal investigations.

If Trump ends up with several indictments, Ayres said, core voters who are at least open to other Republican presidential candidates will likely see him as carrying a lot of “baggage.” But he warned that no one can fully understand how things will turn out. After all, this has never happened before.

Ayres said, “I have never considered the indictment of a former president and prominent presidential candidate, nor have I ever taken any polls on the impeachment of a former president and prominent presidential candidate.”

One nagging concern of some of Trump’s critics is that the case against him may be weak, and that hitting it might embolden him. former deputy. Peter Meagher, the Michigan Republican who lost his primary last year after voting to impeach Trump over his role on Jan. 11. 6 Riot, he said “Crusader crusading Democrats helps Trump in the primaries, which, if he wins, helps the Democrats by getting the weakest GOP nominee for the general.”

Trump The most prominent critics of the Republican Party 2024 in recent timesPence refused to roll the knife on Saturday. “No one is above the law,” he told reporters during his campaign in Iowa at a foreign policy forum hosted by the Bastion Institute. “I am confident that President Trump can take care of himself.”

But privately, Pence allies have maintained that Trump will likely face more indictments related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

“He’s trying to walk a very narrow fence line,” Mike Murphy, a former Indiana Republican confidant of Pence, said of the former vice president’s comments. He’s trying to keep Trump at arm’s length. But at the same time, he knows that the Republican base will fail if this happens on Tuesday. He must be sympathetic to their concerns, without empathizing with Trump. Most serious potential indictment in atlanta. It will be clear in this respect that right is right and wrong is wrong.”

Trump is likely overstating his call to “Pretend, take back our nation!” and a rally on Saturday in Waco, Texas, for his first campaign of 2024. If protests don’t materialize — or if crowd sizes are small — “that will show the Trump movement is faltering,” said a longtime Republican strategist who was granted anonymity to discuss the dynamics. 2024 campaign.

Electoralability-focused Republicans, after Trump’s loss in 2020 and disappointing midterms, are also likely to see Trump’s indictment as untenable in the general election.

“At some point, some of his supporters will see the cumulative effect of these legal actions directly impact his ability to win the general election,” said Dick Waddams, former chair of the Colorado Republican Party and longtime party strategist. “One reality that could start to sink in is that he will likely be diverted by these legal actions throughout the entire campaign.”

Some Republicans’ biggest fear, however, is that the indictment could truly hurt Trump and the GOP only when the party needs to win back the independents and moderate Republicans who fled from them in 2020. The sparks could be painful reminders of his time in office.

“It helps him in the Republican primary, but he was going to win the Republican primary, anyway,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist who was a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project.

The problem with the GOP, he said, is that even if the indictment boosts Trump’s base, it will do nothing for the party in the general election.

“The severity of the base’s shrinking is not a sign of a growing movement,” Madrid said. “It is a sign of a dwarf star exploding.”

Natalie Allison contributed to this report.

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