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Trump Verdict Seen as ‘Pivotal Moment’ for Undecided Voters
(Samira Bouaou / mages)

The outcome of former President Donald Trump’s New York records-falsification trial is most likely to influence undecided voters—a sliver of the electorate that could exert an outsized impact on the Nov. 5 presidential election.

“This is a pivotal moment in the 2024 race,” American political history professor Jeff Bloodworth told The Epoch Times as jurors began deliberations on May 29.

Mr. Bloodworth, who teaches at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, said suburban college-educated voters probably would allow the trial’s outcome to influence their votes.

The former president was convicted of 34 business-records falsification charges; an appeal is almost certain, legal experts said.

Polls have shown that a conviction was poised to sway some voters away from President Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Trump campaign pollsters predict the effect on votes will be minimal.

However, it appears that the verdict is having a big immediate effect on fundraising. Several online commenters said they made donations to the former president, but many visitors overwhelmed the website, causing it to crash temporarily and having to be restored several times.

Yet a small percentage of voters could make the difference between winning and losing the 2024 election. Polling consistently has shown a razor-thin margin separating the two major candidates: President Trump and the incumbent Democrat President Joe Biden.

Many voters are unwilling to change their declared allegiance to President Trump, President Biden, or a third-party candidate, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Still, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on May 22, about one-fifth of voters say they are open to reconsidering.

Many of those people are “double-haters,” Mr. Bloodworth’s term for voters who dislike both President Trump and President Biden. These voters care deeply about the outcome of the New York case, and they’re very likely to turn out and cast their ballots, he said.

He predicted that a guilty verdict against President Trump would drive those people “back into the Biden camp, like they were in 2020.” That election “was decided on the margins,” Mr. Bloodworth said, resulting in President Trump’s ouster. Now in the thick of his third run at the presidency, President Trump still says he believes he was the rightful winner—a claim that mainstream media and many Democrats reject.

In a statement accompanying the Quinnipiac poll, polling analyst Tim Malloy characterized Kennedy voters as “particularly swayable,” with 52 percent reporting they were likely to change their minds. President Trump’s supporters were  “less-inclined to bail on their candidate,” Mr. Malloy said, with only 8 percent somewhat likely to defect. Almost double that number said they could drop their support of President Biden.

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A crowd gathers at Trump Tower after a guilty verdict against former President Donald Trump in his New York City trial on May 30, 2024. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

The Quinnipiac poll found that 70 percent of voters were following the New York trial closely, with 46 percent of respondents believing President Trump “did something illegal.”

About 6 percent of President Trump’s supporters say a conviction would make them less likely to vote for him—a number that “could tip the balance” in a very tight race, Mr. Malloy said.

Seven States May Matter Most

But the Trump campaign’s pollsters, Tony Fabrizio and Travis Tunis, reported that several weekly surveys found the New York trial would have a “negligible” effect on voters in seven swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Their research found that large percentages of Democrats and President Biden’s voters were following reports about the New York trial.

But voter segments that the Trump campaign is targeting—independents, undecideds, and “persuadables”—were “much less likely” to stay abreast of the trial, “with almost none following it ’very’ closely,” the pollsters said in a May 29 memo that the Trump campaign released.

“Voters in our key target states have already made up their minds on this trial. Most voters, especially our supporters, believe the case is politically motivated and a conviction would be [the] result of a biased show trial. Biden’s voters will believe President Trump is guilty no matter what,“ the memo said. ”And those in the middle are largely unconcerned, and their votes aren’t going to hinge on the results of the trial.”

Recent nationwide polling, including Quinnipiac’s, has shown the two candidates in a statistical dead heat. President Trump, however, has pulled ahead of President Biden in battleground states and has been chipping away at the incumbent’s lead in some states considered to be Democrat strongholds.

Several surveys show minority voters, such as blacks and Hispanics, drifting away from President Biden, whom they blame for inflated prices of groceries, fuel, and other necessities.

The Trump camp’s pollsters said the seven states they are focused on are most likely to decide the election, “not the national data the media would like us to focus on.”

They predicted national polls, “especially those conducted by the media,” will probably “show exaggerated shifts.”

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Erica Deaver (L), 60, attends a rally with former President Donald Trump in the South Bronx in New York City on May 23, 2024. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Polls Could Be Flawed

Pollster Rich Baris doubts that polls can accurately gauge how voters will respond to the New York verdict.

When pollsters ask such a “bias-tainted question,” the results are skewed, Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times. That’s because “voters know the ‘right’ answer they are expected to give, even though they would never vote for Biden, regardless.”

Pollsters produced inaccurate results in 2020 when they found that President Trump’s impeachments would adversely affect his vote totals, Mr. Baris said.

“He ended up setting the record for the most votes ever received by an incumbent president,” Mr. Baris said.

A guilty verdict in any of President Trump’s legal cases may have little effect on voting behavior, Mr. Baris said. A conviction “is already baked into the cake, meaning voters expect it and believe it’s politically motivated,” Mr. Baris said.

“Lawfare has only made him more relatable in the eyes of voters who otherwise would never relate to an uber-rich white billionaire from Queens.”

Predictions Vary

Regardless of how the trial ended, “Donald Trump has hit his peak,” New York Democrat strategist David Carlucci told The Epoch Times. “Those who believe this is a political witch hunt are already on the Trump Train.”

President Trump and many of his supporters say the four criminal cases against him constitute “election interference.” They allege that President Biden’s administration is driving the cases—a claim that Democrats vehemently deny, although Republican lawmakers are investigating the allegations.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a former Republican presidential challenger who now endorses President Trump, predicted that either an acquittal or a conviction would benefit the former president politically.

In the wake of a not-guilty verdict, people would see “This was a sham trial,” Mr. Ramaswamy told Fox News before deliberations began. “This is a trial where [District Attorney] Alvin Bragg made a commitment to voters saying that he was gonna go after Donald Trump. ‘You name the man, I’ll show you the crime;’ that was his mentality. That’s exactly what he did.” Mr. Bragg denies political animus.
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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg stands with members of his staff at a news conference following the conviction of former President Donald Trump in New York City on May 30, 2024. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In the event of a conviction, “Nobody in the United States of America could still possibly tell you what exactly was the crime that Donald Trump committed. And if he’s being sentenced on that basis, they will see the injustice of that as well,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

“So. this has backfired … backfired, as it should, and thankfully, we will be able to end the weaponization of justice when Trump wins that next term.”

Although Mr. Bloodworth said a conviction would likely hurt President Trump’s vote tallies, that outcome may motivate his supporters to dig in their heels even deeper. They could become more motivated to make financial contributions, show up at rallies, and take other actions on his behalf, Mr. Bloodworth said.

If jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision, President Trump’s campaign would surely trumpet that as “an exoneration,” Mr. Bloodworth said, and much of the electorate would agree.

“They’ll be like, ‘Okay, yeah, essentially, he was found not guilty,’” he said. “That will be their kind of summation of events. Trump has the momentum, and this could further add to his momentum.”

“But an excited vote counts the same as an unexcited vote,” Mr. Bloodworth pointed out, underscoring the importance of reluctant voters who still feel strongly enough to cast ballots.

Ex-New York Prosecutor’s Perspective

Mark Bederow, a New York City criminal defense lawyer and former Manhattan assistant district attorney, told The Epoch Times: “A hung jury is a 100-percent win for Trump and a 100-percent loss for the DA.”

The District Attorney’s office has spent millions of dollars to prosecute the case against President Trump. Given those expenditures and “so much Trump fatigue,” the DA would face a lot of pressure to drop the case and not take it to trial again, Mr. Bederow said

A mistrial after a jury’s failure to reach a unanimous decision would feed the political argument that President Trump has been making, “which is that it’s a Democrat witch hunt,” Mr. Bederow said, cautioning that he isn’t adopting that point of view.

“If he does get convicted, there will be so much pressure that he not be incarcerated,” Mr. Bederow said, adding that locking up a former president for a paperwork offense would “strike people as bonkers beyond anything they’ve ever seen.”

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