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2024 Wildcard: Trump criminal trial verdict throws 2024 presidential election into uncharted waters

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Former President Donald Trump’s conviction in his historic trial in New York City is thrusting his 2024 election rematch with President Biden into uncharted waters.

Trump, who was the first former or current president to stand trial in a criminal case, has now become the first major party nominee to run for the White House as a convicted felon.

And the verdict of guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records could immediately impact the trajectory of the presidential race, where Trump currently holds the slight edge both in national polling and in public opinion surveys in most of the crucial battleground states that will likely decide the election.

But two-thirds of registered voters nationwide questioned in a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll released on Thursday – just hours before the blockbuster verdict – said a conviction in the trial would make no difference to their vote in the presidential election. Seventeen percent said a conviction of Trump would make them less likely to vote for him and 15% said they’d be more inclined to support the former president at the ballot box.

‘If Donald Trump is a convicted felon going into the November election, that has to mean something to the small number of undecided voters in the six battleground states that will decide the election,’ seasoned Democratic strategist Chris Moyer told Fox News.

Moyer, a veteran of a handful of Democratic presidential campaigns, emphasized that ‘every little development in this race could push voters one way or another. Nobody wants to be a convicted felon when you’re putting your name on the ballot.’

Longtime Republican consultant Colin Reed acknowledged that it’s ‘never a good thing to be convicted, in life or politics, of a crime.’

‘But the old rules and the old conventional way of thinking have never really applied to Donald Trump throughout his life as a political figure,’ Reed, a veteran of multiple GOP presidential campaigns, added. 

‘It remains to be seen if this is a political anvil or if it’s just another chapter in a long saga of ups and downs for a guy who survived seemingly insurmountable political odds before,’ Reed said.

Trump was charged with falsifying business records in relation to payments during the 2016 election that he made to Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about his alleged affair with the adult film actress. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, $130,000 in return for her silence about allegations of an affair with Trump in 2006. Prosecutors argued that this amounted to illegally seeking to influence the 2016 election.

Both Cohen and Daniels testified for the prosecution and were grilled by Trump’s attorneys during cross-examination in a case that has grabbed tons of attention on the cable news networks, online and on social media.

The former president repeatedly denied falsifying business records as well as the alleged sexual encounter with Daniels, and he has repeatedly claimed, without providing evidence, that the case was ‘prosecuted directly from the inner halls of the White House and DOJ.’

Trump was also fined a couple of times and threatened with jail by the judge in the case for violating a gag order aimed at protecting witnesses and jurors from the former president’s verbal attacks.

Trump, speaking to cameras following the verdict, called it ‘disgraceful,’ charged that the trial was ‘rigged,’ and said the ‘real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people,’ as he pointed to his presidential election rematch with Biden.

‘The whole thing was rigged from day one — from the venue to the judge,’ Trump added in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Brooke Singman.

The former president plans to hold a news conference at 11am ET on Friday.

Veteran pollster Chris Anderson, a member of the Fox News Election Decision Team and the Democratic partner on the Fox News Poll, said that he did not think ‘a guilty verdict would fundamentally change the landscape of the race.’ Both Cohen and Daniels testified for the prosecution and were grilled by Trump’s attorneys during cross-examination in a case that has grabbed tons of attention on the cable news networks, online and on social media.

Daron Shaw, a politics professor and chair at the University of Texas who also serves as a member of the Fox News Decision Team and the Republican partner on the Fox News Poll, noted that ‘prior to 2020, no one would have thought that a candidate could survive a criminal conviction.’

‘But times and circumstances have evolved. And while the specific findings of the jury could matter, I think there is a sense that a conviction in this case would not appreciably change the dynamics of the race,’ Shaw emphasized.

Both pointed to the fact that ‘attitudes are so set in concrete’ regarding both the former Republican president and his Democratic successor in the White House.

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