Q&A of the Day – Does the Indictment of Donald Trump Make him Stronger?

Q&A of the Day – Does the Indictment of Donald Trump Make him Stronger?  

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.   

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Social: @brianmuddradio    

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.    

Today’s Entry: @brianmuddradio What’s your take on how the Trump indictment will play? I think it makes him stronger because true independents that swing elections will see right through this. 

Bottom Line: Lots of news, lots of conversation, lots of uncertainty. That’s probably the best way to currently assess the news of the Trump indictment. I appreciate all of the folks who’ve reached out on this one over the past few days. I specifically chose this question and this angle for today’s Q&A because it provides the best opportunity for me to provide potential insight. Given that my informational approach is a fact-based analytical one, and my opinions are formed based upon the facts, I’d prefer not to speculate – especially when there are so many unknowns. Like for example, what exactly he’s even being indicted for, which won’t be known until tomorrow’s arraignment. What the Trump legal team’s strategy will be based upon the charges. Whether the Manhattan judge assigned the case will hear the case. How long the legal process may play out. Whether prosecutors in other jurisdictions, a la Atlanta, will feel emboldened to bring charges and what those might be. That’s an awful lot of variables, and not even the full extent of them, which could be factors in trying to size up how this will play politically. That said, there are already a number of knowns and a bit of somewhat comparative history we can draw down on which could provide a clue.  

The first known is a predictable one. Trump’s supporters are emboldened and appear to be as resolute in their support of the former president as ever. In the first 24 hours after the indictment Donald Trump, his presidential campaign took in $4 million from largely small dollar donors. In my digging that appears to be an off-election year one-day record for a candidate who has already announced for office. Additionally, campaign advisor Jason Miller, claims many of the donations were from first time donors, which if accurate, would be a huge tell of what could come. Next, we can look for anecdotal signs from those who aren’t Trump supporters. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush provides a good example as he Tweeted: Bragg’s predecessor didn’t take up the case. The Justice Department didn’t take up the case. Bragg first said he would not take up the case. This is very political, not a matter of justice. In this case, let the jury be the voters. That comes from someone who’s called Donald Trump “the chaos candidate”. It would have been easy for him to remain quiet. That he chose not to, speaking up in defense of Donald Trump, is notable. And then there’s the first accredited polling on this matter that can provide additional clues.  

ABC News/Ipsos was the first to conduct an accredited nationwide poll of our collective opinions of the indictment. Today’s note cited an opinion that independents will see right through this. On Friday I mentioned I’d be watching to see what the perception of independents would be. It didn’t take long to gain a first look at what their opinions may be. One poll is of course anything but gospel. But rather than getting especially caught up in hard percentages, it can be helpful for seeing initial themes. On the question of... 

  • Do you think Donald Trump should or should not have been charged with a crime in this case? 45% said yes 
  • Do you think the charges against Donald Trump in this case are politically motivated, or not? 47% said yes 

Now, it’s interesting to note that more Americans answered that the charges against Trump are politically motivated than those who said he should be charged. But what’s most interesting is that while 45% of respondents to the poll said Trump should be charged, that number dropped to 41% among independents. In the context of how this is initially playing politically, that matters most. With independents generally being more skeptical of this indictment than the average American, that’s supportive of the notion of true political independents “seeing right through this” as the listener who submitted today’s Q&A noted. That doesn’t mean Independents are necessarily more likely to vote for Trump for president should they have the opportunity to do so but it does show they’re more inclined to be sympathetic to Trump’s assertion that he’s the target of a “political witch hunt” which may have the potential to lead to eventual votes. In winning the presidency in 2016 Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 4% among independents. Interestingly, that’s the same percentage as the difference in the polling on the Trump indictment. In 2020, Biden beat Trump by 13% among independents which is what led to him pulling out wins in all of the key swing states. Joe Biden’s current approval rating with independents is 29%. It’s safe to say many are back in play. And that takes us to a historical comparison.  

There are many differences between Bill Clinton’s Oval Office sexual scandal and Donald Trump’s pending indictment over Stormy Daniels hush money, but when you think about it, there are potentially enough similarities to make the comparison relevant. Bill Clinton’s average approval rating was 58% the day the news of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal first broke. It was 61% the day he first directly lied to the American people by unequivocally stating that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” and it was 62% by the time the Senate voted not to convict after the House had impeached him. Bill Clinton proved that a president can directly lie to the American people, cheat on his wife in the Oval Office and can come out the other side of the scandal more popular than before. And that’s in part due to the perception by many that impeachment was an overreach. Any reasonable person must admit that seven-year-old Stormy Daniels hush money from an alleged encounter over twenty years ago, pales in comparison to the current President of the United States schtooping his intern in the Oval Office and bold faced lying to the American people about it.  

So, the point is this, if Bill Clinton can come out the other end of his scandal better off than he went in. There’s reason to believe Trump can too, especially with independents already appearing to be more skeptical than the average partisan. 

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