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How might Trumps campaign be affected if hes acquitted in his hush money trial?


(NEW YORK) — Former President Donald Trump has been making history these past few months, running a third straight presidential campaign while under multiple criminal indictments.

His legal fate is now in the hands of a jury in New York, where he’s charged with falsifying business records to disguise alleged a hush money payment to an adult film actress. The payment, prosecutors say, was designed to hide an alleged sexual encounter from voters shortly before the 2016 election.

The trial has fueled speculation over how politically damaging a conviction would be, with a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll finding that a fifth of Trump’s supporters said they would either reconsider their support (16%) or withdraw it (4%) if that happened.

But as the jury deliberates, Republican strategists told ABC News that the other side of the coin — an acquittal or hung jury — could offer the presumptive GOP nominee a chance for vindication and a political boost.

“If this jury is hung or doesn’t convict him, it is a huge shot in the arm to him. … I just think it gives him fresh wind under his wings, a breath of fresh air and he gets to undo the shackles and go out there and rail against this two-tiered system of justice,” said veteran GOP strategist Dave Carney. “It would give him a whole new talking point, and I think he would feel the burden lifted. I think it would make him a better candidate.”

Testimony at the New York trial was sometimes dominated by sordid details of Trump’s purported encounter with actress Stormy Daniels — which he denies — to revelations that Michael Cohen, the one-time Trump fixer turned harsh critic, stole from Trump’s company.

The jury’s verdict will likely be similarly head-turning, both given the prospect of a former and possibly future president being on trial amid both parties’ efforts to claw out even the slightest advantage in a presidential race anticipated to hinge on razor-thin margins in just a few swing states.

And in a race where the 538 national polling averages have barely budged, even Trump’s foes view a possible acquittal as a rare opportunity for him to boost his chances in November against President Joe Biden.

Mike Madrid, an anti-Trump GOP strategist and Lincoln Project co-founder, noted that the former president has a “fundamental problem with the base,” noting recent primaries in which former South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley has won as much as 20% of the vote despite having dropped out of the race in March.

“A lot of that’s gonna come back, it’s not like he’s gonna lose 20%,” Madrid said. “But if he loses 10%, he’s gonna lose in big fashion. So, what happens to those people that are already predisposed to get up and vote against him when he’s not running against anybody? Does an acquittal help? Yeah.”

“What it does is, it prevents leakage of a candidate that is already facing a historic problem with his base,” he added of a possible acquittal. “That’s what this does, it stops the bleeding.”

On top of that, the New York case is likely the only one of four Trump cases that’ll actually make it to trial before Election Day, meaning an acquittal could help him paint himself as both a victim of a weaponized legal system and cleared of any wrongdoing in all of his indictments.

“He’s thrown them all into one pot together and declared them all partisan witch hunts, despite the fact that they are completely different in the seriousness and import of the various allegations,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “An acquittal is verification of everything that Trump has said about at least this trial, and probably others.”

Strategists predicted any Trump crowing over a potential acquittal could be supercharged by the New York setting for the trial — a city that gave him less than a quarter of the vote in 2020.

“If he’s acquitted, he gets to do the victory lap and use that as a mantra that It was just politically charged and even in Antifa, communist-laden New York City, whatever he’s going to say, even they acquitted him, and that’s how much of a sham this is,” Madrid said.

Trump has already demonstrated an ability to claim he’s been cleared of wrongdoing, regardless of the facts.

The then-president in 2019 claimed “complete and total exoneration” after special counsel Robert Mueller declined to bring charges against him in his investigation into allegations of collusion with Russia in the 2016 race — a mischaracterization of the details of Mueller’s report but a decision that allowed Trump to declare victory nonetheless.

And while Trump has been able to hit the trail in between days in court, an acquittal in the New York case could free him up to discuss a broader range of issues beyond his legal travails.

“It gives him a chance to focus like a laser beam on the economy and indicting Biden and his incompetence,” Carney said. “If Trump doesn’t have to carry the baggage of the lawsuit, I think it gives him the freedom to really, really lay out his agenda and indict the president for lack of actions or the actions that caused this. And that’s what people care about.”

Still, Trump has lacked message discipline in this and past campaigns, possibly hindering his ability to seize on beating the New York case. And Democrats cast doubt on the idea that an acquittal would fundamentally change the perceptions of a man who spent decades in the public eye and four years in the White House.

“I think it can make people who are already enthusiastic angrier and more enthusiastic,” said New York Democratic strategist Jon Reinish, “but I don’t think it does anything to those who are in the middle.”

Yet already, the cases themselves appeared to provide Trump a polling bump while he was still running in a crowded 2024 GOP primary, leading some Republicans to suggest the pump is primed for another boost should the jury fail to convict the former president.

“If the legal cases against Trump themselves have boosted Trump in the polls, which it appears they have, because people see wrongdoing with the cases, it is not a stretch to believe that if he’s acquitted, that’s just going to lead to a boost for Trump,” said one GOP strategist supporting Trump.

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