Which Other 2024 Candidates Benefit From Trump Being Indicted?

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

We are mere days away from Trump being read the indictments against him and he, along with the rest of us, will soon know exactly what to expect in the coming weeks and months.

Naturally, there are a great many people who want Trump to be indicted for something – anything – no matter what. In Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, they may have found their champion. Bragg had originally backed away from the case, but revisited it and empaneled a grand jury under political pressure from the progressive left.

But this is a novel case for many reasons. It’s not just how unique the case itself is – as the Washington Post editorial board put it, the case is “Pyramiding two transgressions of state rules to go after a federal candidate,” but that “courts may regard it with skepticism.” That, combined with the fact that Trump is now the first ex-president to be indicted for a crime and because he is currently running for President in 2024, makes this case more than just an interesting legal one. It’s also a big test for electoral politics.

Trump’s Fundraising

When Trump first announced he was going to be arrested, he raked in millions in the subsequent days from small-dollar donors, and his poll numbers jumped. Over the last seven days, the RealClearPolitics polling average has been going up steadily while Ron DeSantis has dipped a bit. Overall, Trump leads DeSantis by 17.6 points on average, and the rest of the field is way behind the Florida governor.

2024 GOP Primary polling average (April 2, 2023)
Credit: RealClearPolitics

It is to be expected that the pending indictment would generate sympathy for Trump, and even the mainstream media acknowledges that much, as my colleague Nick Arama pointed out earlier today. “You all wanted this for so long, now you’re trying to backpedal because you’re worried about the effect of what you pushed for,” Nick wrote. “They’re only worried — as they always are — that they may not be able to defeat a now even more powerful Trump.”

But Trump may not be the only one to benefit from this.

Good News… For DeSantis?

Some prior data suggest that some folks on the fence about Trump’s legal prospects may be looking for a reason to head out, and an actual indictment may give them that opportunity.

Echelon Insights has polling data showing a possible bounce for DeSantis if Trump were to be indicted. Since that poll was done, the hypothetical has become reality.

 24. If the 2024 Republican presidential primaries were being held today and you had to make a choice, for whom would you vote?

  • 1. Donald Trump, definitely 45%
  • 2. Donald Trump, probably 15%
  • 3. Ron DeSantis, probably 13%
  • 4. Ron DeSantis, definitely 21%
  • 5. Unsure 7%

25. Suppose that Donald Trump is indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney. Knowing this, for whom would you vote in the 2024 Republican presidential primary?

  • 1. Donald Trump, definitely 41%
  • 2. Donald Trump, probably 11%
  • 3. Ron DeSantis, probably 14%
  • 4. Ron DeSantis, definitely 26%
  • 5. Unsure 8%

We don’t quite know if that shift becomes reality, but Trump losing 7 percent and DeSantis gaining 6 percent is a pretty big deal if it does come to pass. That keeps Trump with a solid lead, still it would not be a good sign going forward.

At the same time, notice that Trump loses more support than DeSantis gains. Where would that support go? It’s unclear.

Nikki Haley’s Path Becomes Clearer

Meanwhile, National Review pointed out last week that while everything else is going on, Nikki Haley’s path to success seems to be more defined than it was, and it combines her role as a female politician and the growing chorus of women who are rejecting the idea that trans-women can compete in the same space as other women.

As the only woman in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Nikki Haley is uniquely positioned to speak to one of the major issues currently dominating conservative politics: the threat posed to women and girls by ideologues who reject the gender binary.

On a swing through New Hampshire this week, she leaned hard into the unique credibility she brings to one of the culture war’s hottest fronts, blasting Sheryl Crow’s “Woman in the White House” and wearing a sweater emblazoned with the phrase: “She who dares wins.”

“We don’t need boys playing in girls sports. That’s the women’s issue of our time, and no one is talking about it. My daughter ran track. I wouldn’t even know how to have that conversation with her,” she said on Tuesday at a town hall in Salem, N.H.

“And if you really want to change this country, what you need to do is send a bad-a** Republican woman to the White House,” she told the crowd.

While Haley’s polling sits just below Mike Pence in the latest average, she is still in the top five of those polled. But, it’s a long way to the top for anyone not named Trump in the race, and that includes DeSantis, who trails in second.

The Horse Race

As the indictment becomes reality this week, we should expect another bounce for Trump in the polls and fundraising. However, we’re still several months away from the first debates and primaries, and it’s not guaranteed that Trump will continue to hold his top spot. Recent events certainly do seem to help him, but his top opponent, DeSantis, is not even officially a candidate yet.

If he does decide to run, as is expected, that could have a big effect on the race as well.

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