How Indictment of Donald Trump is Shaping the 2024 GOP Primaries

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speak at midterm election rallies, in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. November 7, 2022 and Tampa, Florida, U.S., November 8, 2022 in a combination of file photos. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse, Marco Bello/File Photo

Donald Trump indictment pulls DeSantis-leaning Republicans back into the MAGA fold

WASHINGTON – The announcement of Donald Trump’s indictment on March 30, 2023, related to a hush money payment to a porn star, has sent shockwaves through the Republican party. The charges have upended the primary contest and potentially given Trump and his “Make America Great Again” movement a major boost in his quest to re-enter the White House.

Before the indictment, many Republican activists and voters were willing to turn their backs on Trump and support a different candidate in the 2024 election, believing he was too flawed and bombastic to win the general election. However, news of the indictment has changed the thinking of many Republicans, who now see Trump as the strongest candidate to contest what the left is doing.

In Nevada, a key early voting state, all 35 Republican activists and voters Reuters spoke to say they will be voting in the nominating contest to choose their 2024 White House candidate. Of those, 14 said the indictment was changing their thinking and leading them back to supporting Trump again.

Republican voter Larry White poses for a picture in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., April 2, 2023. White had been thinking of backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary but is now all in for former U.S. President Donald Trump after Trump's criminal indictment in New York. REUTERS/Tim Reid
Republican voter Larry White poses for a picture in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., April 2, 2023. White had been thinking of backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary but is now all in for former U.S. President Donald Trump after Trump’s criminal indictment in New York. REUTERS/Tim Reid

DeSantis Losing Possible Edge

The indictment followed an investigation by a Manhattan grand jury, which heard evidence about a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels allegedly authorized by Trump in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. The reaction to the indictment by congressional Republicans and even his potential Republican rivals for the White House nomination has demonstrated the firm grip that Trump still retains on the party, thanks to the diehard support of a core group of voters.

Party leaders have rallied behind Trump, with even potential rival Ron DeSantis calling the indictment “un-American.” Trump’s campaign has boasted of raising over RM17.69 million since the indictment was announced.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump makes a fist during a rally ahead of the midterm elections, in Minden, Nevada, U.S., October 8, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
Former U.S. president Donald Trump makes a fist during a rally ahead of the midterm elections, in Minden, Nevada, U.S., October 8, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Republican strategist Sarah Longwell has conducted focus groups with people who voted for Trump in the previous two presidential elections, and she found that all nine members of her latest group said they were going to vote for Trump over DeSantis in the Republican primary, the first time the ex-president has had universal backing in a focus group. The reason was the indictment, Longwell added.

Read Also: Silence is Golden: Biden’s Response to Trump’s Indictment

It remains to be seen whether the outrage on Trump’s behalf among Republican voters will endure throughout the primary and help him defeat DeSantis, or whether it will dissipate and be replaced by renewed concerns about his electability. There is no guarantee the charges will continue to help Trump in the long term, especially if he is indicted in other investigations he faces, including alleged election interference in Georgia and the mishandling of classified documents.

Nevertheless, the indictment has dramatically shifted the Republican primary contest and given Trump a major boost in his bid to become the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election. – Reuters