Trump Is a Convicted Felon: Here’s How That Affects the 2024 Presidential Race

Experts on both sides say that while the conviction of a former president is unprecedented, it may have only a minimal impact on voters who had already calibrated the charges into their decisions in the 2024 race.

| 31 May 2024 | 06:26

NEW YORK (AP) — Having been convicted of 34 felonies, Donald Trump cannot own a gun, hold public office or even vote in many states.

But in just over 150 days, voters across America will decide whether he will return to the White House to serve another four years as the nation’s president.

Trump’s conviction in his New York hush money trial on May 30 is a stunning development in an already unorthodox presidential election with profound implications for the justice system and perhaps U.S. democracy itself.

But in a deeply divided America, it’s unclear whether Trump’s status as someone with a felony conviction will have any impact at all on the 2024 election. Trump remains in a competitive position against President Joe Biden this fall, even as the Republican former president now faces the prospect of a prison sentence in the run-up to the November election.

In the short term at least, there were immediate signs that the unanimous guilty verdict was helping to unify the Republican Party’s disparate factions as GOP officials in Congress and in state capitals across the country rallied behind their presumptive presidential nominee, while his campaign expected to benefit from a flood of new fundraising dollars.

Standing outside the courtroom, Trump described the verdict as the result of a “rigged, disgraceful trial.”

“The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people,” Trump said, referring to Election Day. “This is long from over.”

Speaking from the White House the day after the verdict, President Joe Biden said, “It’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” taking Trump and his supporters’ words directly. “Our justice system has endured for nearly 250 years, and it literally is the cornerstone of America.”

“We’re THRILLED that justice has finally been served,” the campaign wrote. “But this convicted criminal can STILL win back the presidency this fall without a huge surge in Democratic support.” In a campaign email, Biden noted that Trump raised $52.4 million in the 24 hours since his conviction.

Strategists predict a muted impact

There has been some polling conducted on the impact of a guilty verdict, although such hypothetical scenarios are notoriously difficult to predict.

A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that only 4 percent of Trump’s supporters said they would withdraw their support if he’s convicted of a felony, though an additional 16 percent said they would reconsider it.

On the eve of the verdict, the Trump campaign released a memo from its polling team suggesting that the impact of the trial is “already baked into the race in target states.”

Trump campaign advisers argued the case would help them motivate their core supporters. So many donations came into WinRed, the platform the campaign uses for fundraising, that it crashed. Aides quickly worked to set up a backup platform to collect money pouring in.

Trump on May 30 headed to a fundraising event scheduled before the verdict, according to a person familiar with his plans who was not authorized to speak publicly.

His two most senior campaign advisers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, were not with him in New York, but in Palm Beach, FL, where the campaign is headquartered.

And while it may take days or weeks to know for sure, Trump’s critics in both parties generally agreed that there may not be much political fallout, although some were hopeful that the convictions would have at least a marginal impact in what will likely be a close election.

Sarah Longwell, founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, who conducts regular focus groups, suggested the guilty verdict may help Biden on the margins by pushing so-called “double haters”—a term used to describe voters who dislike Trump and Biden—away from Trump.

But more than anything, she suggested that voters simply haven’t been following the trial very closely.

“The best thing about the trial ending is that it ended,” Longwell said, describing the courtroom proceeding as a distraction from more serious issues in the campaign. “There will now be an opportunity to focus the narrative on who Trump is and what a second Trump term would look like.”

Republican pollster Neil Newhouse predicted that the trial may ultimately have little impact in a lightning-fast news environment with several months before early polls open.

“Voters have short memories and even shorter attention spans,” Newhouse said. “Just as the former president’s two impeachments have done little to dim Trump’s support, this guilty verdict may be overshadowed in three weeks by the first presidential debate.”

A plan to campaign after sentencing

The judge set sentencing for July 11, just four days before the scheduled start of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

Each of the falsifying business records charges carries up to four years behind bars, though prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek imprisonment. Nor is it clear whether the judge — who earlier in the trial warned of jail time for gag order violations — would impose that punishment even if asked.

Trump will be able to vote in Florida, where he established residency in 2019, if he is not in prison on Election Day. But he will have to turn over the firearms he owns before his sentencing, since convicted felons are barred by federal law from carrying weapons.

And imprisonment would not bar Trump from continuing his pursuit of the White House.

Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who was with the former president in court this week and also serves as co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said in a Fox News Channel interview before the verdict that Trump would still try to campaign for the presidency if convicted.

If Trump is given a sentence of home confinement, she said, “We will have him doing virtual rallies and campaign events if that is the case. And we’ll have to play the hand that we’re dealt.”

There are no campaign rallies on the calendar for now, though Trump is expected to hold fundraisers in the coming days.

Biden himself has yet to weigh in.

He was spending the night at his family’s beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, after marking the anniversary of his son Beau’s death earlier in the day at church.

AP writers Emily Swanson and Zeke Miller in Washington; Jill Colvin and Michelle L. Price in New York; Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami; and Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, contributed.