Could Trump win again? Polls these days have been pretty unreliable when it comes to predicting how Trump will do with likely voters. Some polls currently have Trump’s chances to win up or down by 30 points against opponents like Ron DeSantis, for example. It is still early when it comes to gaming the outcome of a presidential election in 2024. Nonetheless, there are problems for Trump that he did not face before he ran in 2016 and was less of a known quantity. In 2016 he faced fewer headwinds. Here is a run down of what he faces now.
Criminal Lawsuits Will Damage His Prospects Whether or Not He Goes to Jail
To start with, Trump is facing many criminal as well as civil lawsuits. Allegedly ripening soon is the criminal case in Georgia. As we all have heard by now, Trump was caught on tape talking like a mob boss, intimidating and cajoling Brad Raffensburger to find him just enough votes to help him make the argument that he actually won Georgia instead of losing to Biden. The idea behind the intimidation of the Georgia secretary of state was that a dispute about the outcome would serve to create confusion about who won Georgia which was part of the larger John Eastman plan cooked up to bypass the Electoral College. The John Eastman plan was a political Hail Mary to help Trump stay on as president.
Brookings Institution in Washington published a report that concluded he is “at substantial risk of prosecution” in Georgia including for improperly influencing government officials, forgery and criminal solicitation. The report said Trump may even be vulnerable to charges under anti-racketeering laws written to combat the mafia.
Norman Eisen, the lead author of the Brookings report and former White House special counsel for ethics and government reform, said he thinks charges against Trump are “highly likely”.
“The evidence is powerful and the law is very favorable to the prosecutors in Georgia,” he said. “I believe the [special grand jury] report very likely calls for the prosecution of Trump and his co-conspirators.”
The Stormy Daniels case is back once again. Alvin Bragg, NY DA, decided to reopen it before the statute of limitations tolls. There is a 5 year statute of limitations but there must be an exception that the States Attorney plans to rely on where the tolling arguably was halted for some reason we will learn about if there is an indictment. That is a criminal case that could land Trump in jail. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney fixer, has been doing time for his confessed participation in that crime on Trump’s behalf. Cohen has said Trump directed him in the scheme to pay Daniels the hush money. The payment was a reward for staying quiet about her affair with Trump before the 2016 election. Records were falsified under Trump’s direction.
Bragg could attempt to bring state charges of falsifying business records against the former president if prosecutors can show that Trump, with an intent to defraud, was personally involved in unlawfully designating Cohen’s reimbursements a legal expense.
That misdemeanor would carry up to a year in jail, but a felony version of the crime could carry up to four years. (The Hill)
Because these are state charges Trump could not get a pardon from a Republican president or grant himself a pardon if he regained the presidency. Which brings up the interesting if bizarre idea of a president running the country from a prison cell instead of the Oval Office were Trump to win re-election and also be found guilty.
Then there is the Mar-a-Lago documents case which is still a thing now that the confidential documents found at Biden’s office and home have been offset by confidential documents found at Pence’s home. The distinction between the right way and wrong way to handle such a discovery has been clarified by these findings. Trump is the only one who tried to conceal and obstruct. His refusal to cooperate with DOJ and his secrecy about what he did with these documents stands in sharp contrast to Biden and Pence and also opens up speculation that Trump may have used the documents to make money or to hide his own wrongdoing while in office. This was something Trump has been guilty of in the past: i.e. his impeachment for trying to get a quid pro quo from Zelenskyy –military support if Zelenskyy will dirty up Biden with phony reveals about Biden and/or his son.
It is likely that these cases will be unfolding as the election season gets into full swing. Trump will be fighting indictments and possible prison time in the near future as he runs for office and tries to portray himself as the right choice for all Americans. Not a good look for anyone running for public office. In addition, Trump had two impeachments and the DOJ is still looking at the January 6th insurrection where the January 6th Committee convincing exposed the truth that Trump inflamed a mob to overturn the free and fair election of Joe Biden in 2020. Trump just smells really bad these days.
Biden or another Democratic candidate for president, will have plenty of ammo to use in ads to prove to voters that Trump would be a toxic choice for president. Trump, however, will use the ripening legal developments to rev up his base to support him in primaries across the nation. His loyal base is estimated to be a solid and unshakeable 30% of the Republican electorate. A loyal 30% group of voters is enough to win primaries especially in a crowded field, but not enough to win a general election even with all of the voter suppression and gerrymandering the GOP has engaged in to rig the system in their favor.
Trump’s public fight to keep the Big Lie alive and to stay out of jail will turn off millions of crucial suburban voters. We already saw that millions of Americans including Republican voters refused to elect election denialists trying to sell the Big Lie. Many were suburban voters. These voters are some of the very few swing voters left in America. Any Republican presidential hopeful must get them on board to win a general election. Someone like Glen Youngkin or maybe Ron DeSantis might be able to get these voters on board by appearing to be more moderate than Trump. (Don’t be fooled. They are just as bad and far less entertaining.) Assuming the GOP base will be loyal to Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee, Trump’s negativity factor will work against him with these all important persuadable voters and sink him in the general election.
THE MONEY FACTOR
Trump faces even more hurdles. Ken Griffin, the Koch Brothers and other wealthy donors have turned against Trump and have said they will not support him this time.
Trump has been holding smaller rallies in places like school gyms instead of massive rallies these days. He may be unable to regain the traction he had in his first and second runs for president. Or maybe they are worn out from giving all those small dollar donations to him and getting so little in return. Trump’s embarrassing NFTs sold out fast but the fact that he had to resort to making money that way is telling. Trump will be spending a fortune on lawyers to handle all of the lawsuits coming for him.
Also working against Trump is boredom and exhaustion. Trump fatigue is a real thing and it has infected many people even in Trump’s wholly owned Trumpian Republican Party. Many people who still love Trump say that he has too much baggage and they know that he can’t win. The base still loves him because he is the master of mean. He is the Valdemort of the political dark arts of assault, mockery, innuendo and denigration. He is already deploying those skills to damage Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis who seem to be close to declaring their candidacies.
Trump bloodied DeSantis by claiming he made DeSantis who he is today then painting him as a weakling cry baby.
“Ron DeSantis got elected because of me,” he told (Hugh) Hewitt. “You remember, he had nothing, he was dead, he was leaving the race, he came over and he begged me, begged me, for an endorsement. He was getting ready to drop out…. He said, ‘If you endorse me, I’ll win,’ and there were tears coming down from his eyes.”
As for Nikki Haley, Trump paints her as overly ambitious (apparently that’s a bad thing for a woman to be in Republican circles), unable to be a straight shooter and not aligned with the base.
“Well, every time she criticizes me, she uncriticizes me about 15 minutes later,” Trump said to Vanity Fair. “I guess she gets the base.”
No wonder so many Republican presidential hopefuls like Pompeo, Pence and others are waiting in the wings to announce rather than face Trump’s take downs now. The sooner they announce, the longer time Trump has to rip them to shreds.
PREDICTION: Trump is Taking the GOP Down With Him
What I see coming are probable Trump victories in Republican primaries in state after state propelling Trump to the nomination against the will of the Republican Party which has been passive when it comes to pushing back against extremists in their party including Trump, Paul Gosar, MTG, Lauren Boebert, Jim Jordan and many others. Most savvy members of the GOP realize Trump is an unelectable presidential candidate.
But Trump is a threat to the GOP even if he doesn’t get the nomination. If Trump fails to land the GOP nomination he will run as an Independent because he is a malignant narcissist who believes he will win whether or not there is a realistic chance to win. Trump ardently believes the fantasies he creates and gets everyone around him to buy into the fiction as well. Even the formerly well respected John Durham, special prosecutor assigned by Trump to investigate the reason he was investigated by the FBI, drank the Trumpian Kool Aide and lost his reputation in the process. Durham’s investigation found wrong doing all right but the wrong doing was by Trump himself in some as yet unspecified violation of Italian law that Durham then covered up instead of reporting.
Gaming it out: Trump running as an Independent would split the Republican vote in the general election most likely handing the victory to the Dems. And Trump running as the Republican nominee would likely hand the election to the Dems thanks to the baggage Trump has set up for himself. By failing to follow the laws and norms or play by any rules other than those he lives by as a gold card carrying sociopath, and by fulfilling the wishes of the Republican Party base, Trump has set himself and the Republican Party up for failure when it comes to the general election.
The only way out for the GOP would be for Republicans to face him down as soon as possible and beat him at his own game. But I have yet to see any Republican stand up to Trump out of fear of the base that Trump built. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger tried and look what happened to them. Republicans are waiting for a Deus Ex Machina. They are hoping that somehow Trump gets taken down by the DOJ or by the fatal cheeseburger or by some other fortuitous event. What they haven’t learned is that no one can save their party from the awful base that Trump built and backed but themselves. Their post mortem will be that they should have tried to educate the base. They didn’t do that. They relied on everyone but themselves to do their dirty work.
In short, Republicans are too chicken to take Trump on and 30% of the base is too wedded to Trump to leave him. We are living through the downfall of a once functioning political party that allowed itself to be hijacked by ultra right wing extremists.