Surreal as it is to live in a moment of history at which that is an actual question, the folks at Vox went looking for an answer from political experts on both sides of the aisle. The results were not conclusive.
Robert Cahaly, senior strategist and pollster at Trafalgar Group, towed the party line: “With all the stuff that’s out there brewing that could turn into some kind of legal action against Trump, this is probably the weakest case. I think it’s very beneficial for Trump that something so superficial and silly is the first example.”
A similar take came from Whit Ayres, an adviser to GOP candidates and founder and president of North Star Research: “I am skeptical that a charge about a years-old event that everybody has already known about for years is likely to have much impact on anything, other than it will probably rally Republicans and supporters of Trump around him, at least in the short term. This would be a very easy case to frame as a partisan political indictment. Much easier to frame that way than, say, the Georgia voting case or the classified documents or January 6.”
But a less rosy picture for Trump was painted by third GOP source, Republican strategist Matt Dole of Ohio: “Trump faced an uphill battle before this for the nomination. I think [his indictment] probably just adds to that. A lot of folks in the Republican coalition want an option that espouses [Trump’s] policies without bringing the antics. Ron DeSantis, obviously, is the model for that.
Over the long term, I think this probably helps Trump’s opponents in the Republican primary. There’s certainly a lot to be said for political attacks on President Trump. But I think throughout the entire Republican coalition, this probably hurts him more than it would help.”
The only Democrat quoted by Vox offered the least comfort to Trump.
“I think it will help [Trump] in the Republican primary but will continue to degrade him with the broader electorate. MAGA has underperformed in three consecutive elections, and we know it doesn’t work in the battlegrounds. And if the Republicans present themselves as the party all for MAGA in 2024, they’re gonna have a very, very hard time winning the presidency.
“Trump coming in as the nominee, having been indicted potentially two or three times — there’s no scenario where that’s helpful to him in a national election. It perhaps will help him crowd out DeSantis and other challengers in the primary. But of course, that would be a disaster for the Republican Party. I’d much rather be us than them heading into this next election.”