F:or the brief moment when Donald Trump glided through the crowd at Mar-a-Lago to a podium surrounded by a crowd bathed in American flags, it seemed like the start of a successful campaign. But almost as soon as he started speaking, the former president felt sorry for himself.
Trump called his indictment on 34 felony charges related to alleged payments to the former porn star “massive election interference on a scale never before seen in our country.” He attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and portrayed himself as the victim of a vast conspiracy. “The only crime I have committed,” he said, “is fearlessly defending our nation against those who seek to destroy it.”
From there, his speech, the first public response to the historic verdict earlier Tuesday, turned into lies about the 2020 election. Cable news channels cut the feed. Applause was becoming rarer.
Read more: Trump’s indictment marks a volatile new chapter in American politics.
Trump has been serving up versions of this gripefest for years now, a bitterness that has grown increasingly bitter over the course of two impeachments, an impeachment and countless other scandals that critics say will derail his political career. How much appetite does the American public have for a presidential candidate determined to litigate old grievances while new legal challenges await?
So far, the indictment appears to have rallied Republicans around the former president. A dwindling number of Trump critics in the GOP, like Sen. Mitt Romney, shot down Bragg’s case. “I think the New York prosecutor sought to pursue felony criminal charges to fit a political agenda,” Romney said. Even his 2024 rivals mostly jumped to his defense.
Polls suggest the impeachment could also boost Trump among voters. A Yahoo! A News-YouGov poll conducted shortly after the indictment showed Trump’s support increased, with 57% of respondents saying they would vote for the former president over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his primary challenger. , which collected 31%. Back in February, DeSantis led Trump in a head-to-head in the same poll. In a new poll, Trump leads among independents, evangelical Christians and voters of all ages and education levels.
Another Reuters/Ipsos poll released on April 3 also showed Trump widening his lead after the impeachment, with 48% of Republicans saying they wanted Trump as their nominee, up from 44% in March. in front of DeSantis’ support fell to 19% in the wake of the charges, from 30% in March.
Read more: Donald Trump’s historic and completely predictable accusation.
While Tuesday’s unsealing of the grand jury indictment was the clearest evidence yet of the evidence Manhattan prosecutors plan to present against Trump, it appears to have little chance of convincing GOP voters that his behavior is politically disqualifying. A CNN poll released on the eve of the trial found that most Republicans do not believe what Trump did was illegal, and a sizable minority did not even believe it was wrong.
More than 1 in 5 Republicans say Trump’s alleged crimes of falsifying business records to cover up an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 election (which Trump has denied) were “not wrong. everyone,” according to a CNN poll. The poll found that another 50% of Republicans said the payments were unethical but not illegal, while only 8% said he did anything illegal.
Trump’s speech after the trial, like most of his public comments, was designed to energize his base. He knows that the more they attack, the more loyal they become. “This witch hunt, like all the others, is only ANTI-Biden.” Trump said in a statement published shortly before his speech. “How fitting that I should return home to be the LEADER in the election.”
Read more: Trump’s impeachment drama showed the weakness of his rivals.
But Trump’s base isn’t growing. And Americans generally seem to support the impeachment, with 60% approving of the decision to impeach Trump, according to a CNN poll, including large majorities of Independent voters and majorities across age, gender, race and education. Meanwhile, the poll found that a majority of Americans believe the indictment was a political maneuver, with 76% saying politics played a role. Respondents were actually split on whether they thought the indictment was good or bad for democracy.
What could make the unprecedented case another tired Rocharch test for Trump. a scandal that only disqualifies people who already disqualified Trump, but invigorates people who see him as the leader of the Republican Party. His indictment, and perhaps even a possible conviction, could be another scandal that ends in a stalemate.
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