Would a Trump conviction actually matter?

Responding to news that former President Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had been granted immunity for his grand jury testimony last month, Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told MSNBC:

“You don’t give Mark Meadows immunity unless the evidence he has is unimpeachable. I want all Republican voters to understand this. What’s going to be happening in March? He’s [Trump] going to be sitting in a courtroom in Washington, D.C., with Mark Meadows 20 feet away from him saying he committed crimes in front of me on my watch.”

“[T]his is a guy who was velcroed to Trump’s hip for the entire 2020 campaign and all the post-campaign nonsense. And so this is deadly. It’s done. He’s going to be convicted. It’s over,” Christie added.

Considering that Trump now faces 91 felony charges in cases that will be tried in decidedly unfriendly venues and presided over by deeply partisan judges, he could very easily be indicted on at least one charge. While Democrats are salivating over this possibility, the more relevant question is this: Would a conviction necessarily matter to voters?

Americans are well aware that Trump is currently fighting two federal indictments, state indictments in New York and Georgia, and a civil fraud trial in New York. Even so, polling suggests that if the election were held today, he would likely win. 

Obviously, with almost a year to go before Nov. 5, 2024, anything can happen. But at this moment in time, the former president leads President Joe Biden by 1.6% in the RealClearPolitics average of general election polls. This shows that support for Trump is expanding beyond just Republicans. 

It is important to note that at this point in the 2020 election cycle (Nov. 18, 2019), Biden was ahead of Trump by 10.2%. At this point in the 2016 cycle, Hillary Clinton led by 4.4%.

Republicans were delighted – and Democrats spooked – when an early November New York Times/Siena College poll showed Trump ahead of Biden in five out of six key battleground states including Nevada, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and behind in Wisconsin. 

The poll later asked respondents “who had not voted for Joe Biden earlier,” in other words Trump supporters, whom they would support “if Donald Trump were convicted and sentenced to prison but were still the Republican nominee.” And Biden took the lead in all six states.

But that is precisely the opposite of what we’ve seen among Trump supporters over the past year. The tighter the screws, the higher his poll numbers seem to go. As previously mentioned, he’s even attracting independent voters.

You may recall the utter lack of enthusiasm that greeted Trump’s campaign launch last November.  His announcement came just one week after an election in which the much anticipated red wave failed to materialize and Trump-endorsed candidates in key races underperformed.

Throughout the first quarter of this year, Trump’s lead over his nearest competitor in the Republican primary, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, ranged between 14 and 18 points. But as word of New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s April 4 indictment spread, Trump’s lead exploded to 30 points. And it continued to climb with each new indictment. The RealClearPolitics average of polls currently shows Trump ahead of DeSantis by a whopping 45 points.

The Times/Siena poll also found that 22% of black voters in the six battleground states support Trump while 71% support Biden. Still a lopsided number, but considering that Trump won only 8% of the black vote in 2020 and just 6% in 2016, a 14% increase in support among this group could be a gamechanger. 

Polling results released on Sunday “surprised” even the NBC analysts who reported them. Not only had his approval rating fallen to 40%, but the poll found that Trump had a “narrow lead” over Biden “for the first time in NBC News polling.”

Democrats have abused the law to set a legal trap for Trump in the belief that if he is convicted of a crime during the 2024 election season, he will lose. But what if they are wrong? What if a large swath of voters, particularly independent voters, well aware of the illegitimacy of the charges and the party’s hijacking of the U.S. system of justice, stand behind him? 

For some voters, less might have been more. One set of indictments against Trump may have had more impact than the four they would ultimately bring. At a certain point, the law of diminishing returns kicked in and new indictments not only failed to move the needle, but became a neon sign trumpeting the message that Democrats will do whatever it takes to eliminate this man even if it means weaponizing the law against him. 

It may be that the Democrats’ contrived – and relentless – persecution of the former president is fueling his rise in popularity. And it’s moving beyond the Republican Party.

The daily images of a former and potential future U.S. president defending himself in a courtroom on trumped up charges runs contrary to most Americans’ sense of fairness. 

Most Republicans and a growing number of independents see the indictments for what they are: a desperate attempt to destroy a political opponent by a party that has collectively lost all sense of decency. And the 2024 presidential election could turn out to be the ultimate David vs Goliath story. 


A previous version of this article appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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