“I don’t see it working in terms of impacting perceptions of the president,” said Dave Carney, a New Hampshire-based Republican national strategist. “He’s being attacked by the left, they’re using all the tools of government, they’re politicizing the justice system – that’s just icing on the cake.”
Since his 2016 presidential campaign and throughout his post-presidency, Trump has maintained his status in the GOP not despite the scandals piling up around him, but in part because of his ability to leverage them. , its trademark grievance policy. animating the Republican base. The New York lawsuit was the product of an investigation by the state attorney general. But it also came from a Democrat, in a state that Republicans embody the coastal elite.
“The more Trump gets attacked, the higher he climbs among Republicans,” said veteran Republican consultant and pollster Frank Luntz. “He knows how to play the victim card perfectly.”
If the New York attorney general is “trying to secure his renomination, which I wouldn’t rule out, that’s a good way to do it,” said another prominent Republican strategist.
In the New York civil lawsuit, Trump faces charges that he and his family engaged in longstanding deception, including about his net worth, as part of a fraudulent effort to minimize tax bills and otherwise benefit financially.
The case is not without reputational responsibility for Trump. Even before the lawsuit was announced, Trump’s world feared that the former president’s continued focus on the 2020 election — and Trump’s efforts to nullify it — would hurt him by making him look like a figure. the past. That showed in polls showing Republicans open to alternative candidates like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2024, and in Trump’s declining approval rating.
The New York trial, said Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist who was a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, “probably solidifies his base further.” But he said, “A lot of these things are going to keep happening, and this drip-drip just crumbles away. Even a drop of water in a few years can erode a granite cliff.
But in the short term, the lawsuit could hurt Trump’s potential Republican rivals in 2024 more than the former president.
“All of these things are ongoing giveaways to President Trump,” said John Thomas, a Republican political strategist who organized a PAC to back DeSantis in 2024 but put those plans on hold after the FBI raid and subsequent Republican rallying. around Trump.
A Republican strategist who works with hardline congressional candidates across the country said “the longer Democrats keep going after him, the better.” For the people who “stopped up and voted for Trump,” the strategist said, “the more you tell this guy he’s a piece of shit, deplorable, whatever’s wrong with America, the more you tell him. push in camp MAGA Politics is tribal.
If he was advising DeSantis, he said, he would suggest coming to Trump’s defense on the New York case while more generally working to paint Trump as a former, not current, party statesman. “If you’re Ron DeSantis, you want the people at MAGA to see Trump as Ron Paul and you as [the younger] Rand Paul. He was a great guy in his day, but he’s no longer our leader.
Another Republican strategist who works on national races said potential rivals would gain little by tackling Trump’s legal troubles. After all, there has already been a “flag effect rally” in favor of Trump following the Mar-a-Lago raid last month.
“I don’t think you sue him over the scandals. Everyone is aware of that. All you do is make enemies among the core members of the base,” the strategist said. “The only way to run against him is to say he’s a loser. You basically have to say, I love everything you’ve done. I loved politics. I think you’re great at shaking up the country But you lost Congress, the Senate, the White House – and you did it in four years – that’s a record.
It’s what happens to that record in November – more so than the trial in New York – that will likely offer the real test of Trump’s durability before 2024. After a primary campaign in which Trump interfered on the electoral map, several U.S. Senate candidates he helped win the primaries risk losing their general election campaigns.
“I think we’re going to have to see how this election plays out,” said former Colorado Republican Party chairman and longtime party strategist Dick Wadhams. “Because if we lose a lot of Senate races, or House races for that matter, that we should have won, and that can be attributed to Trump emerging once again as the dominant figure in this midterm election campaign, I think it will probably hurt him in the long run.
Thomas said he concluded earlier this year that “Trump will be the nominee if he wants to, unless we get knocked out midterm and a lot of Trump’s nominees lose.”
In other words, the litigation in New York has nothing to do with this calculation.
“I think some people are like, this is the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back,” Thomas said. “I don’t see that at all.”
For Republicans following Trump, Wednesday’s image was simply another partisan clash. At the same time New York State Attorney General Letitia James exposed her allegations of fraud against Trump and his family, his allies lambasted the attorney general and released videos describing his work as a “witch hunt.” against the former president and which she has tried to capitalize on politically since her campaign.
They also questioned whether James’ announcement, with less than 50 days to go until the midterm elections, was timed to boost his own political ambitions. James, a Democrat, has long been a political boogeyman for Trump, who regularly releases video of his campaign promising to confront him at rallies.
“He’s a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform, despite the city being one of the world’s crime and murder disasters under his watch,” Trump told Truth Social. Wednesday.
But while Trump and his allies have tried to cast the lawsuit as another form of political targeting, it’s recognized that his lawsuit could drag on in court — and be embarrassing for Trump, to say the least.
The former president has built his brand around an image of wealth and success, and grossly overstating his worth creates an “emperor without clothes” situation for the businessman-turned-politician.
In particular, for a former president who has long bragged about his wealth, James said Wednesday that Trump “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and deceive the system, thereby deceiving us all.”