Trump Found Liable for Sexual Abuse and Defamation – and What That Means for the Election Campaign

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Dr. Louis Perron
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Last week, Donald Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation by a jury in New York. That’s certainly not good news for the former president. In the average of all surveys, Trump’s favorability rating stands at 39% and I doubt this will make it grow.

That said, it’s important to distinguish: Trump has a loyal base of enthusiastic supporters. I don’t think that the verdict would have an impact on them; they buy his defense of the political witch hunt and that he did not stand a chance to get a fair trial New York. That said, as enthusiastic they may be, the base is not enough to win a presidential election. U.S. presidential elections are usually decided by independents and swing voters, an important part of them being suburban women. In other words, the people who will decide the election were absent in the CNN town hall and will start to pay attention to the race in more than a year.

I therefore don’t necessarily expect Trump’s vote share in the polls to decrease in the short run. After the indictment, he even rose in the polls because of a rallying effect of his base. But the vote question in the polls is near to meaningless at this point in time. In summer 2007, Hillary Clinton was seen as the runaway front runner in the race for the Democratic nomination and the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was far behind. The polls didn’t move for months. We all know how that one turned out. In other words, the race for the Republican nomination hasn’t even started yet and the general election is 18 months away.

For the Republican Party, the jury’s verdict is tricky. It’s one thing to dismiss allegations and chose to believe a candidate, in particular if this candidate is seen as winning. It’s a different thing to dismiss a unanimous verdict. We will see very careful positioning from fellow republicans. Those in moderate districts who need swing voters to win reelection, will distance themselves from Trump. Those who can win reelection by solely relying on the base, will stand by the former president.

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