Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Why Trump’s Trials Don’t Hurt Him in the Polls



Donald Trump is out on bail in four jurisdictions facing dozens of felony charges and it does not seem to affect his ratings in the surveys. Many people wonder why.

First of all, let me assure you that Donald Trump is not made of Teflon. Rather, he is probably the most polarizing politician on earth right now. While he does have a very enthusiastic base, a majority of Americans in almost every poll have an unfavorable opinion about him. So it’s not that the various attacks, scandals, allegations, and bad press he has faced ever since he has entered politics have not affected his ratings. They have. Remember that even on the day when he won the presidential election back in 2016, he was the most negatively seen winning presidential candidate in history.

With respect to his current legal problems, I’m of course not saying that they are no big deal or just technicalities if they were to be judged as true by the courts. I am, however, saying that so far it’s nothing that comes as a shock to voters. By and large, the things Donald Trump is accused of are all factored in by the electorate in their own judgment of Donald Trump.

Let me explain.

Quite a number of voters probably think it’s possible that Trump may indeed have had an affair with Stormy Daniels. Whether the payments can be tied to him beyond reasonable doubt remains to be seen.

Voters have heard and seen Donald Trump brag on tape about his aggressive behavior toward women before they voted for him the first time.

In other words, the trials, at least so far, don’t provide much new information to voters. Voters have been seeing Trump in the news practically every evening for years. Opinions about him are firmed up and new pieces of information about him are presented by the media and seen by voters through a partisan lens.

As a political consultant, I have personally worked for people who were accused of things such as corruption, ghost employees, womanizing, drug abuse, or gambling, just to name a few. With respect to public opinion, voters take into account the timing of allegations and scandals.

The way Donald Trump, the Trump organization and the Trump charity conducted business is something that was going on for decades and apparently was no legal problem before he entered politics and likely would never have become a legal problem had he stayed out of politics.

Trump also benefits from the fact that he is accused of many different things. This makes it easier to dismiss the allegations all together without addressing the specifics.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, used this tactic brilliantly when he ran for president. When he started to top the surveys and became a threat, he became the target of various attacks. As a former comedian, he made a competition out of it and asked his supporters on social media to create and send in the most ridiculous allegation. Instead of answering (possibly legitimate) questions about the original accusations of his opponents, Zelensky thereby effectively drowned them in the spectacle of the competition.

The key for Trump in the current situation, other than to delay the trials, is to use the media attention to circle back to the main campaign message. For example: “Instead of an alleged affair from more ten years ago, we should be talking about how much more you pay for groceries now compared to when I left office.”

As I write in my new book “Beat the Incumbent: Proven Strategies and Tactics to Win Elections,” elections with an incumbent are foremost a referendum on the incumbent. A savvy challenger makes sure it stays that way no matter what.

The verdict in the Stormy Daniels trial will of course be new information for voters. But even a guilty verdict might not change much for Trump’s standing in the polls, at least not with his base. In case Trump were to be acquitted, this would probably give him a boost. It might be a signal to the very limited number of voters that are still undecided that it is okay to vote for Donald Trump after all. How long such a boost would last is a different question, however. The next controversy might be just around the corner.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.