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The Impact of Trump’s Indictment on the 2024 Election
Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant
Saturday, April 8, 2023


I have consulted with a hundred politicians (including presidents, vice presidents and cabinet members), businessmen, beauty queens and some of the world's best paid athletes. None of them ever conveyed to me that being indicted would be a particularly good thing. None.

In view of this, I find it flabbergasting that some in the media seem to think that Trump's indictment might help him politically. Then again, it usually takes a while until journalists fully realize that a media phenomenon is over. Trump is probably the most polarizing politician on earth and therefore has produced endless headlines and clicks for them.

Let's however break down what the indictment means electorally, to start with the Republican primary.

Trump has a base of enthusiastic supporters. This is why you might well see a short-term rallying effect in the surveys. These are also the people who are donating to his cause. Apparently, Trump has raised four million dollars during the first 24 hours after the news about the indictment broke. That's decent money, but not overwhelming. Just to give you a frame of reference, Joe Biden raised seven million dollars during the first 24 hours after announcing his candidacy (Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke and, Pete Buttigieg all raised similar amounts).

In the surveys for the 2024 Republican primary, Donald Trump is for sure ahead. He polls at 45 of the vote (and he has won the nomination with a plurality of the vote before), but these are surveys with Republican primary voters. Trump is known commodity to all of them. What these polls therefore really tell me is that 50% of Republicans do not vote for Trump. I don't see why an indictment would make them change their mind.

The religious right is a very important factor in a Republican primary. While Trump became popular among them, it wasn't love at first sight. The accusation of paying hush money to a porn star in order to hide an extramarital affair might remind these voters of why they were skeptical about Trump to begin with. The absence of Melania Trump and Trump's children last Tuesday are details that are certainly not lost on them.

Let's also keep in mind that the race for the Republican nomination hasn't even started yet. More than nine months of campaigning and debating will take place before even the first votes will be cast in Iowa and New Hampshire. At this point in time leading up to the 2008 election, Hillary Clinton was seen as the overwhelming favorite in the polls. A junior senator from Illinois called Barack Obama trailed her badly and in particular the nationwide numbers didn't move for many months to come. We all know how that one played out.

This said, let's turn our attention to the general election. With respect to winning a nationwide election, Trump's base, as enthusiastic as his supporters may be, is not enough. There's a reason why Trump became the first incumbent president in almost thirty years to lose reelection. In the average of the surveys, 52% of American voters have a negative opinion about him. The indictment foremost reminds many voters of the things they don't like about Trump: the constant noise and drama as well as the focus on him as a person. Let's also not forget that the indictment last week was only the beginning of Trump's legal worries.

While there are certainly less Independents than thirty years ago, there are still some. And they are normally the ones to decide U.S. presidential elections. The reason why Trump won in 2016 is because Independents gave him the benefit of the doubt. 48% of them voted for Trump while 42% voted for Clinton. Trump lost in 2020 because Independents broke 54% to 41% for Biden.

Just imagine a typical swing voter, say, a white, married, suburban woman in Wisconsin worried about inflation. To begin with, I think she doesn't care much about the indictment. And even if Trump were to be acquitted, how would it convince her that he's the right man for the future and to deliver lower prices?

At this point in time, the best bet for Trump to win a general election is if the economy tanked and voters became even more dissatisfied with the status quo and Joe Biden.

Dr. Louis Perron is an internationally renowned political consultant based in Switzerland. He has won dozens of competitive election and referendum campaigns in various countries. His clients include everything from mayors up to senators, members of cabinet, presidents – and a former Miss Universe.

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