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The One Scenario That Could Derail Trump's Candidacy for the GOP Nomination

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Things are still looking good for former President Donald Trump. Despite a series of politically-motivated indictments against him, his fortunes seem to have improved as more Republican candidates throw their hats in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination. Nevertheless, this still does not mean a Trump victory is a foregone conclusion — there is still an avenue through which his candidacy could be derailed.

While speaking at an event, Trump dismissed the federal charges against him, accusing President Joe Biden of weaponizing the Department of Justice for political gain.

Trump said he considers the indictments he has received so far as a “great badge of courage” and touted his strong poll numbers:

Speaking on Saturday at the Road to Majority conference in Washington, hosted by the right-wing evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition, Trump said he considered each of the two indictments he has received so far to be a “great badge of courage.”

“Joe Biden has weaponized law enforcement to interfere in our elections,” Trump told the conservative audience. “I’m being indicted for you.”

The speech came less than two weeks after Trump, currently the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, pleaded not guilty to 37 federal charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

The Justice Department is accusing the former president of storing classified documents at his home at Mar-a-Lago. The agency alleges that Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice in keeping the documents concealed from the government. It is also expected that he could be facing indictments in Georgia and Washington due to his efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

During his speech, Trump jested: “I’m probably the only person in history in this country who’s been indicted, and my numbers went up.”

Trump is not wrong. His poll numbers have increased after the indictments from the Justice Department and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. According to a national NBC News poll, former President Donald Trump has increased his lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican presidential contenders since his recent federal indictment on criminal charges. The survey reveals that while 50 percent of Republican primary voters are open to considering another candidate besides Trump, his support among conservative voters is still growing.

As the 2024 presidential election cycle progresses, Trump has several factors working in his favor. The indictments are helping him immensely. The conservative base has seen over and over again how Democrats have used the government to attack him going back to the 2016 election.

Moreover, the FBI’s apparent bias on issues like abortion has damaged its credibility – especially among folks on the right. Trump has used this to great effect to maintain and garner support, casting himself as the hero who is being targeted by the deep state because they view him as a threat. These constant indictments show that the former president is not merely engaging in hyperbole. The politically-motivated nature of these charges has resonated with a significant portion of Republican primary voters, with a staggering 64 percent believing that the indictments and investigations against Trump are driven by political motives.

Another factor that solidifies Trump’s path to the nomination is the expanding pool of Republican candidates. While an influx of contenders might suggest a more competitive race, it actually works to Trump’s advantage. With an array of options, voters who initially expressed openness to exploring alternatives to Trump find their choices spread across multiple candidates, diluting the base of anti-Trump opposition. This fragmentation ultimately strengthens Trump’s position, as his loyal base remains unwavering in their support.

The only plausible scenario that could potentially derail Trump’s nomination bid is if he were to be convicted of a crime carrying a prison sentence. If Democrats want him out of the race, they will have to put him behind bars. Such a development could erode support among conservative voters who might finally conclude that there is just too much baggage attached to the former president, whether it’s fair or not. However, it’s crucial to note that conviction and imprisonment are significant hurdles to overcome, and the burden of proof lies squarely with the prosecutors. Short of this outcome, Trump’s stronghold on the Republican base appears unwavering, rendering any other challenges to his nomination precarious at best.

At this juncture, I would still argue that the primary race is Trump’s to lose. But, as they say, anything can happen.

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