I spoke to the New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman for an item that ultimately ran in David Leonhardt’s The Morning newsletter wherein they examined the political impact of the rumored legal proceedings that could be forthcoming against the former President as soon as this week.
In the short term, an indictment seems likely to help Trump politically. It will draw attention to him, and he often performs best when he has a foil.
As our colleague Maggie Haberman told us: “I do think an indictment, if it happens, will galvanize his supporters. He will describe the case as trivial, a point some Democrats have argued, and he will insist it’s all part of a broader Democratic Party conspiracy against him to help President Biden in his re-election effort. He’s already fund-raising off it, and he will make selling this to his supporters as another instance of him being victimized central to his campaign.”
When Maggie asked Liam Donovan, a veteran Republican strategist, for his view, he made a different but related point: An indictment may help Trump in the primary and hurt him in a campaign against Biden. “Legal escalation would be a significant blow in a general election where he needs to broaden his support, but any event that polarizes the primary in terms of pro- or anti-Trump sentiment only serves to harden his core support,” Donovan said.
I spoke to Maggie Haberman for her New York Times piece with Michael Bender on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ conspicuous decision not to engage or respond to Donald Trump’s recent spate of personal attacks, and when and whether his containment strategy might shift to direct confrontation.
Some deep-pocketed Republican donors have privately expressed concern about how Mr. DeSantis will perform when forced to directly engage with an opponent as combative and unbothered by traditional rules of decorum as Mr. Trump.
“No Republican has ever emerged from an exchange with Donald Trump looking stronger, so the natural tendency is to deflect his attacks and avoid confrontation,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist.
“That’s easy to do, and maybe even wise when his barbs are confined to Truth Social,” Mr. Donovan added, referring to Mr. Trump’s social media site, where he has fired off many of his attacks. “The question is what happens when DeSantis finds himself on a debate stage opposite Trump, and G.O.P. voters want to see whether they are getting what they were promised.”
I spoke to David Freedlander for his POLITICO Magazine story on the nascent 2024 primary and how the GOP establishment might avoid a reprise of the splintered field that delivered the nomination to Donald Trump.
There may be no convening authority, but there are conversations among donors and party activists who point to how on the other side of the aisle, in 2020, nearly the entire remaining Democratic field dropped out almost at the same time and endorsed Biden. Republicans fret that there is no equivalent of a Nancy Pelosi or a Jim Clyburn in their party who can apply pressure to the dreams of would-be presidents. Still, donors are talking now about pooling money together once the primary gets under way in earnest and a true Trump alternative emerges.
“Donors have wised up,” said Liam Donovan, a GOP strategist. “That is the main control mechanism. There is not going to be oxygen for a lot of these guys, and there are not going to be resources.”