It was the speed of the verdict – a New York minute – that was the shock. But Trump-speed in a New York courtroom is how fast a jury can find that he broke the law by falsifying business records and corruptly interfering in the 2016 election, by defaming a woman whom he sexually assaulted, and by engaging in systematic tax fraud with his businesses.

And yet this is likely the last day this year before the election in November that Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States, will hear the word “guilty” read out to him by a jury. Three other trials are on hold.

The verdict comes at the very moment when Trump is at the apex of his standing in his race against President Joe Biden. The national head-to-head polls show Trump and Biden roughly even at about 45 per cent each. But Trump is clearly leading in almost all the key swing states that will decide the election in the Electoral College. Trump would win an election held today.

Trump’s base is welded on and is all in for Trump. They believe the 2020 election was stolen, and that Biden is not the legitimate president. They embrace Trump’s words at his campaign rallies: “Every time they indict me, I consider it a badge of honour. I’m being indicted for you, and never forget, our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom.”

This is why Trump could crush his opponents in the Republican primaries. Except for Nikki Haley, at the very end of her run for the nomination, all of them withheld a frontal assault against Trump for being unfit for office because they knew that by attacking him they would be attacking his voters. There was no way Trump’s army could switch allegiance to a candidate who would deny his return to the White House. Even Haley says she will vote for Trump.

Trump’s base needs no appeals from their leader to stay true to him. They got Trump’s message right outside the courtroom where he was convicted: “The real verdict will be November 5 – by the people ... This is being done by the Biden administration ... we will fight to the end, and we will win … We will fight for our Constitution.”

But even with all this loyalty – which has morphed from a movement into what many view as a cult – the fact remains that in the Republican primaries, 20 per cent of those voters did not vote for Trump.

Where will they go after this verdict? The last pre-verdict poll this week shows that 10 per cent of Republican voters are less likely to vote for Trump in November. With the 2020 election decided by just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin, every Republican defection from Trump carries an extra punch.

Will this be a reset moment for the Biden campaign? Trump may be the first US president convicted of a crime, but it is Biden who desperately needs a “get out of jail” card. More than 70 per cent of voters believe Biden is too old to serve a second term. Just like here in Australia, inflation and cost-of-living pressures are hurting American households across the country, and there is no relief in sight from punitive interest rates. In North Carolina, a voter told PBS: “I vote for Democrats all the time. I voted for Joe Biden. My life hasn’t changed for the better.”

Trump keeps pushing his favourite hot buttons – immigration and crime. They cut into Biden’s standing. Seventy per cent of American believe the country is on the wrong track. Wars are raging. Biden is losing support for his leadership on the Israel-Gaza war. Ukraine is on the defensive against Russia more than two years after Biden forged the coalition with NATO to repulse Putin. All of this translates into an approval rating for Biden that is, at best, in the high-30s – 10 points below where he needs to be to win the election.

Many Democrats are in a “freakout” on Biden’s prospects, a deep fear that he is losing badly.

The reset moment for Biden that he wants and needs is the debate with Trump on June 27 (June 28, AEST). Biden must project confidence and command. He has to counter Trump’s blows and bullying and show he is unfit to return to the White House – that he is a danger to America’s democracy and, equally important, is so extreme that he is out of the mainstream of where the country is and how it wants to face the future.

Biden’s success in reversing the polarity of the race will hinge on two factors: the polls – whether he can close the gap with Trump in the swing states – and the sentiment of Democratic Party leaders. To date, not one Democratic senator or governor or member of the House leadership has called on Biden to stand aside, open up the Democratic convention in August, and let the party coalesce around another dynamic leader to take the fight to Trump and beat him.

Shortly after the debate, Trump will be sentenced in the courtroom where he faced justice, seated below Judge Juan Merchan, who had control over Trump’s life for the past 60 days. The four words “Donald Trump, convicted felon” will be repeated infinite times from now to November. Joe Biden will effectively ask the American people, “Do you want a Commander in Chief, or a Defendant in Chief. Will a convicted felon take the oath of office for the presidency again? You choose.”