Let’s not count out a Trump re-election victory just yet
Yes, the 45th president’s setbacks are numerous but stranger things have happened in America, writes Phil Thomas
The bad news keeps coming for Donald Trump. In the wake of some of his high-profile endorsements getting the thumbs-down from the electorate came his low-energy 2024 launch speech. Videos showed some of his own guests trying to escape as he meandered endlessly on, whining and squinnying for all he was
worth. Even Fox News cut away for a while, perhaps to give their viewers a much-needed break. Absent from the speech were any high-profile supporters – including his own daughter and former aide, Ivanka.
Across the battlefield map of his legal perils, there are setbacks on one front after another. The DoJ has appointed a special counsel – a war crimes expert and seasoned corruption fighter – to oversee the investigations into Trump’s role in the January 6 riot as well as his still-unexplained hoarding of secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ruled against Trump’s years-long bid to prevent Congress getting its hands on his tax records (which he kept promising to publish himself once a mysterious “audit” was over).
E Jean Carroll is expected to accuse Trump of raping her in a department store in New York in the 1990s using the new Adult Survivors Act, which allows lawsuits that would otherwise have been barred by the statute of limitations (she had previously accused him of defamation over his denial of the alleged crime). On Tuesday, a judge told the former president to lawyer up in anticipation of the move.
The Georgia case over Trump’s cackhanded efforts to bully a local official into helping him cheat his way to the Peach State’s 16 electoral college votes (“I just want to find 11,780 votes”) was continuing this week. New York prosecutors are said to be planning to revisit the Stormy Daniels payoff, while the Trump Organisation trial (involving alleged off-the-books perks) is coming to its climax.
Walking a legal tightrope is nothing new for the 45th president and plenty of Trump-watchers think it actually helps him: the more authorities investigate his alleged criminal acts, the more he can paint himself to his devotees as a victim of the “deep state”. Sure enough, as The Independent’s John Bowden reported this week, despite the walls supposedly closing in on him, a new poll still puts Trump ahead of his closest rival.
The Emerson College survey suggests the former president is a clear 30 points ahead of Florida governor Ron DeSantis in the
race for the 2024 Republican nomination – 55 per cent to 25 per cent. DeSantis (who, annoyingly for Trump, had a very successful midterm re-election) clearly scares his former mentor, who has given him a mean nickname (Ron DeSanctimonious) and started making dark threats about what unfortunate occurrences might befall him should he run.
The GOP establishment prefers DeSantis – how many more elections can they afford to lose under Trump’s leadership? – but that isn’t necessarily the concern of members around the country. Like British Labour Party members backing Jeremy Corbyn with ever greater loyalty, the more MPs attacked him, and regardless of his electoral failures, the Maga crowd have only one true king.
So Trump shouldn’t be counted out quite yet. Not from a Republican point of view anyway. But even if he does pick up the nomination, and evade legal jeopardy a bit longer (as he’s been successfully doing for years), he may prove a tough sell to the country at large.
Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million in 2016, by seven million in 2020, oversaw the Republican loss of the House and Senate, was impeached twice – and that all happened before the events of January 6. It’s difficult to believe that enough of the independent (and sometimes Democratic) voters who gave him a chance six years ago will really be convinced that he’s America’s best hope two years from now.
When the election is upon us, plenty will depend on the state of the economy and the identity of the Democratic candidate. But the prospect of another four years (or more if he has his way, constitutional term limits be damned) of Trump-generated drama may well be more than most Americans can bear.
West coast editor (US)
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