© 2024 Allbritton Journalism Institute
Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media alongside his attorney Todd Blanche after the conclusion of his hush money trial in New York.
Michael M. Santiago/AP

Republicans Say Trump Being Found Guilty Is Great News for Trump

GOP strategists see Trump’s conviction as boosting his case, but that may just stop with his own voters.

Former President Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records, becoming the first former president in U.S. history to be a convicted felon — but Republicans are spinning the verdict as a strength.

“His base is going to come out even stronger, there’s no question in my mind,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer told NOTUS.

The Trump campaign has already used the guilty verdict to galvanize fundraising dollars, likely giving Trump a short-term boost and a long-term message as his other trials drag on: that the judicial system is targeting the former president.

“More and more people are thinking that he has been railroaded. And I’m not a huge Trump fan, but this seems patently unfair,” said GOP strategist Martha Zoller.

“The Weaponization of the judiciary offends voters on both sides of the aisle at their core,” Jared Craig, general counsel for Veterans for America First, told NOTUS via text. “Basically, no one likes the smell of bullshit. It makes the whole Democrat Party look desperate, because they are.”

In a presidential race that will likely be decided by relatively few voters in a handful of swing states, GOP strategists supporting Trump are adamant the guilty verdict will push swing voters toward Trump.

“Based on conversations I have had with Republicans who might not have wanted Trump to be the GOP nominee, they still see this trial as a political prosecution by left-leaning judges and lawyers. They still feel that President Trump is being mistreated, and this would not even be a case if he wasn’t running for president again,” one strategist in Michigan told NOTUS.

Conservative activist Sammy Baker said the verdict will only make Trump more popular among undecided voters.

“You convict him, you’ll just make him that much harder to beat because more and more people, even if you’re an independent, look at it and go, ‘Alright, who’s the bully here?’ It’s the state now, and they’re picking on him,” Baker said.

On the smaller, anti-Trump GOP side, strategists see the guilty verdict as a way to push GOP voters away from Trump.

Sign up for the latest from NOTUS.

John Conway, director of strategy for Republican Voters Against Trump, said the group’s job now is to constantly be reminding voters of this verdict between now and November. He’s focused on the “double downers,” the independent and Republican voters who have negative views of both Trump and Biden.

“I do think come November, there will be folks in these swing states who walk into the ballot box, and when they look at their choices, they’re going to say, ‘I don’t love everything about Joe Biden, but Donald Trump is a literal, convicted felon,’” he said.

He added that while the indictments galvanized the Republican base for Trump in the primary, it’s a different story in a general election where undecided swing voters will make the difference.

“It’s not the Republican base that’s going to decide who becomes the president in November. It’s going to be the center-right swing voters who are on the fence,” he said. “I know from talking with swing voters in our focus groups every week, they do not want a convicted felon to be president of the United States.”

Katherine Swartz, Ben T.N. Mause and Tinashe Chingarande are NOTUS reporters and Allbritton Journalism Institute fellows.