Alex Wong/Getty Images; Marta Lavandier/AP
- Trump’s indictment might appear to open the door to the Republican Party ridding themselves of him.
- But the former president has a knack for turning scandal into moments that tighten his grip on power.
- There are also a number of potential pitfalls his current and would-be primary foes will face.
Donald Trump is a marked man, once again.
The first person in American president to be impeached twice, Trump would hold the distinction of being the first former president to be indicted if a grand jury proceeds with an indictment. But Republicans hoping to rid themselves of the former president should be forewarned that he’s repeatedly proven to be remarkably adept at not just brushing aside scandal but twisting it to his benefit.
The pitfalls are plentiful for the rest of the growing 2024 GOP primary field, alluring as it might be to point to the salacious details of an indictment rooted in Trump’s alleged affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Trump thinks the GOP voters will stand with him. So far, the polling bears that out.
Trump, who has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, has even predicted this himself.
“Oh, absolutely, I won’t even think about leaving,” the former president told reporters after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, per The Hill. Trump, in the way only he can, then added, “probably it’ll enhance my numbers, but it’s a very bad thing for America.”
Stealing Trump’s crown will require any hopeful to siphon off the very voters who have stayed loyal to the former president through so many scandals that a list of related Wikipedia pages nearly spans the entire alphabet. The most recent national poll of Republican voters found that 77% have a favorable view of him.
More importantly, the Quinnipiac survey found that Trump’s margin over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis actually increased in recent weeks. DeSantis has yet to announce his intentions for 2024, though he is widely expected to run.
Among key parts of the GOP primary coalition, Trump continues to do quite well. An earlier CNN-SSRS poll found a narrower race between Trump, DeSantis, and the rest of the field, but it also showed that 34% of self-described white evangelicals would name Trump as their preferred pick for the nominee. DeSantis had slightly more support among the group, but no one else came close to garnering anywhere near noticeable from a demographic that is highly prized in contests such as Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
There’s precedent for law enforcement actions against Trump actually helping him
In the wake of the FBI searching his Mar-a-Lago property, Trump received a veritable bear hug from the GOP and what were then and still are his likely opponents for the nomination. DeSantis called the action “totally off the rails.” Even Pence expressed his “deep concern.”
For one of his rivals to directly go after Trump forcefully and directly would seem out of step with the actions of the entire core GOP. It’s also unclear how such a challenger would end up any differently than Liz Cheney, Jeff Flake, Adam Kinzinger, Tom Rice, and any other Republican who has locked horns with Trump.
Jeb Bush’s oft-repeated “lose the primary to win the general” approach is how you end up asking people to “please clap.”
This would put his direct opponents in a difficult position.
The best bet DeSantis, Pence, or anyone else has is to hope that this moment causes megadonors to take pause. Enough private badmouthing and Trump may be forced to do the one thing he appears to hate the most: spend his own money. But even then, Trump’s declining fundraising notably shot up after the Mar-a-Lago raid.
With all these factors in mind, it might not be surprising that, per The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins, some Republicans have resigned themselves to waiting for Trump to die before the party moves on.