President Donald Trump was indicted for an unprecedented third time on Tuesday 1 August following a federal investigation into the former president’s alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. With Trump expected to appear in Washington DC on Thursday for his first appearance before a magistrate judge, the ensuing case will add yet another complication to Trump’s 2024 schedule and finances, as he continues to juggle his defence in these, now five, legal cases with his presidential campaign.
Some may think the suite of serious criminal allegations facing Donald Trump present an opening for other Republican hopefuls to prise away needed support for their own bids at the Republican nomination. However, as the New York Times/ Siena poll released this week revealed, Donald Trump’s lead over the other candidates in the Republican primary race only seems to grow.
The former president has seized the support of 54 per cent of Republican primary voters, and a landslide 37-point lead over the next closest candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. No candidate with a lead of such a margin has gone on to lose their party nomination in the last 50 years.
The latest indictment is unlikely to erode this lead. The poll showed a vast majority (71 per cent) of Republican primary voters believe that Trump is not guilty of serious federal crimes. And of that number, the majority (56 per cent) believe not only were Trump's actions not criminal, but that he “did nothing wrong” in his handling of classified documents. Considering a further 71 per cent of Republican voters say “Republicans need to stand behind Trump” in response to these criminal investigations, it is no wonder others running for Republican nomination have struggled to capitalise on the opportunity of Trump’s legal woes.
Nevertheless, analysts suggest 63 per cent of these voters appear open to a Trump alternative. DeSantis leads in this ‘non-Trump’ camp, with 32 per cent of the vote, but separate polls suggest his weak performance in key early primary states, and his campaign’s alienation of more moderate, wealthy, educated white voters could see that lead wane with the remaining votes split between several candidates.
DeSantis’ struggle to gain ground and consolidate base support provides welcome breathing space for Trump in a week where his legal challenges intensified. With the first GOP primary debate scheduled for 23 August, time will tell whether DeSantis or a new frontrunner can corral strong enough support to compete with the thrice-indicted former president.