Four indictments later, nothing’s changed for Trump

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When America went to sleep on the night of Aug. 23 following the Republican presidential candidates’ debate, the Real Clear Politics polling averages put former president Donald Trump at 55 percent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 14 and the rest of the field between less than one percent to seven percent.

When the sun rose the following morning, Trump was on his way to the Fulton County, Georgia, jail to surrender, be fingerprinted and sit for a mugshot in response to a 41-count indictment alleging criminal racketeering conduct to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

That morning, the Real Clear Politics polling average had Trump at 53 and DeSantis at 14.

A week previously, the averages put Trump at 52 percent, DeSantis at 12 and the rest of the field still between zero and eight.

It showed also Trump in a statistical tie with President Biden.

In what is arguably the most surreal state of American politics in history, nothing has changed.

With a lead between 40 and 50 points over his closest rival, Trump skipped the debate but clouded it with his shadow. He received as much media attention as the eight candidates on the stage.

The loyalty of his party base is unprecedented. Through four criminal indictments lodged against him since April – two Federal and two state – his support has actually increased in some instances.

DeSantis’ performance has been disappointing, a victim of unrealistic expectations, a testy relationship with the media, turnovers in campaign staff and mistakes and missteps of untried and untested candidates on the national stage.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie began his campaign with a singular focus on being the leading anti-Trump candidate, convinced he’d discovered the lane to nomination ran through the former president.

Instead of a direct path, Christie is trapped in a cul-de-sac, going around and around hurling personal insults at Trump to little avail.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy came across in the debate as an over-caffeinated carnival pitchman loudly defending Trump. His latest polling average stood at seven.

Former vice president Mike Pence, former North Carolina governor Nikki Haley and North Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are interchangeable parts with support between two and five percent.

If true that “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings,” she’s warming up to serenade former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, both of whom have struggled to reach one percent and are in danger of missing the cut for the Sept. 27 California debate.

Troubling as it may be to those in the Republican establishment who fear another Trump candidacy, a sense of inevitably has crept in. The former president holds commanding leads in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary and decisive victories there could seal the deal. The window for coalescing behind an alternative is closing and by the first snowfall in early 2024, may slam shut.

The trials facing Trump guarantee years of litigation, absent unlikely plea bargains or early dismissals. The primary season and general election campaigning will play out against a background of motions, hearings, legal briefs, disputes over arcane points of law and appeals to higher courts and potentially the U. S. Supreme Court.

The trial scheduling and the size and complexity of the cases have created the chaos and turmoil in which Trump thrives. He’s seized on the prosecutorial scramble to drive his narrative of government bloodhounds singling him out and attempting to destroy him by whatever means possible.

There is no more vivid example of the depth and strength of his support than his team’s immediately seizing the mugshot taken at his Fulton County appearance, slapping the scowling image on t-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs and reaping $4.1 million in sales revenue in 24 hours.

Novice lawyers have been advised the following: “When the law is on your side, pound the law. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When neither is on your side, pound the table.”

There is no more accomplished a table pounder than Donald Trump.

Copyright 2023 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.