With Trump’s historic indictment, the 2024 presidential race entered unprecedented ground, with the top candidate for the Republican party potentially running for president while simultaneously facing criminal charges in New York.
The potential primary challengers to Trump were quick to denounce the indictment, recognising the influence the former president has with the people who will determine the Republican fight next year. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis labelled the action “un-American” without mentioning Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence’s life was in danger after Trump incited an uprising at the U.S. Capitol. Capitol, called the allegations “outrageous” on CNN.
This stance exemplifies the short-term pressures on Republicans to avoid doing anything that may alienate Trump’s core support. Trump may likely face further accusations in Atlanta and Washington, but the indictment still raises serious concerns about the future of the Republican Party. While this might energise his base, it also poses a risk to the Republican Party by alienating swing-state suburbs, which have voted for the Democrats in three of the last four presidential elections.
It is widely believed that Trump will turn himself in to authorities next week to face charges related to hush money payments made to women who claimed illicit sexual encounters with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. How this will play out with voters is still up in the air. Even with significant reporting on the anticipated charges, polls indicate Trump is still far and away the leading candidate for the GOP nomination.
It has long been a hope of Trump’s campaign and allies that an indictment would serve as a rallying cry for his supporters, angering his “Make America Great Again” base, drawing small dollar donations, and putting Trump’s potential rivals in the awkward position of having to defend him — or risk the wrath of his supporters.
With the all-caps subject line “BREAKING: PRESIDENT TRUMP INDICTED,” Trump’s campaign started fundraising off the news almost soon after it broke.
Trump’s first campaign event of 2024 was held in Texas over the weekend, and his supporters there voiced broad displeasure with the inquiry while maintaining that it wouldn’t hurt Trump’s prospects.
Others voiced that they had been on the fence about Trump since he left office, but that the prospect of an indictment made them more inclined to vote for him in 2024.
On the other hand, Trump is unlikely to benefit from a criminal prosecution in the general election, especially among independents who have grown bored of his continual instability. This has made room for new candidates like DeSantis, who want to distance themselves from the controversial former president while still claiming to support his programmes.
Yet, the party’s readiness to utilise the indictment to bypass him was not immediately apparent. Republican lawmakers and Trump’s opponents, on the other hand, have raced to his rescue. DeSantis isn’t the only one who thinks the indictment is “more about revenge than it is about justice.” Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who has also announced her candidature, called it “more about revenge than it is about justice,” and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is considering a run, said that Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg was “undermining America’s confidence in our legal system” in a text message used to raise money.
Trump, meantime, has worked to sway opinion away from supporting the plaintiffs. On the morning of March 18, amid rumours that New York City police were drafting a prospective indictment, he posted a message on his social networking site stating that he anticipated to be arrested within days.
Trump, however, used the opportunity to highlight the case’s widely discussed weaknesses and to attack Bragg with a barrage of deeply personal — and at times racist — attacks, despite the fact that this scenario never played out (and his aides made clear it had not been based on any inside information).
Trump was also making an effort to seem strong. On his last night in office, he and his staff went to a collegiate wrestling tournament, where he spent several hours meeting and greeting fans and being photographed with them. The group then watched MMA cage fights on the flight back to the airport.
Others who have talked with Trump in the last few weeks describe him as furious but mostly unconcerned about the possibility of criminal charges. Republican Missouri freshman Rep. Mark Alford claimed Trump was “upbeat” at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser the night before he threatened arrest.
It’s true that Trump has sometimes downplayed the seriousness of the problem. On Thursday, he and his staff were blindsided by the news. On the flight back from his event in Texas, Trump told reporters that he thought the charges against him had been dismissed.
Trump is the subject of other ongoing investigations outside the Manhattan case, including a Georgia investigation into his attempts to alter the results of the 2020 election and a federal investigation into his alleged misuse of confidential data.
If Trump is indicted in more instances, and some of them result in convictions while others are dropped, it is uncertain how the public may react.
Trump could still be the GOP nominee even if he were to be indicted or convicted.