Republicans have shown no signs of breaking down in defending former President Trump after his impeachment on Thursday, suggesting that criminal charges could bolster his position in the 2024 presidential race and ease his path to the Republican nomination.
The impeachment does not bar Trump from running for the White House. Many Republicans said he would only strengthen his position among an influential conservative base and complicate efforts by his Republican rivals to win him over in an expected contentious 2024 primary.
“It may drive traditional Republicans away from Trump, but it solidifies his position with MAGA voters and will make it harder for other candidates to win them over,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor, adding that “Trump will make great use of this issue. He will give you a big boost in fundraising.”
“The impeachment has put Trump back at the top of the polls, boosted his online fundraising, and scattered land mines in front of all the Republicans challenging him for the nomination,” he said.
Trump has given every indication that he will continue his presidential campaign despite the impeachment, using the charges against him as a stick to argue that Democrats are desperate to pull him out of the 2024 race because they fear a rematch against him.
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) saying he made a mistake in accusing Trump. “Bragg is a chsitea joke. It was kind of stupid of him,” Feehery said, adding that Trump’s opponents on the presidential campaign will not use this against him. “If this had more validity, they would use it against Trump, but he is so stupid. Bragg does not introduce himself as a prosecutor. He comes off as a political stunt. Bragg is going to be the easy guy to attack.”
However, some Republicans said the impeachment carries considerable risks for Trump. He is the first current or former president in US history to face criminal charges. Many in the Republican Party have already had enough of the controversies and drama that have swirled around Trump and his political career.
Kevin Madden, a longtime Republican strategist who served as a senior adviser to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) during his 2012 presidential bid, said that for any other candidate the impeachment “would be a huge hurdle preventing them from advancing politically.”
“But he’s going to use this to his advantage. His team has already signaled that they are going to paint this as politically motivated,” Madden said.
At the same time, he added, “Trump fatigue has set in and the relentless focus on this … that’s going to weigh heavily on some voters and over time the burden could get bigger and bigger.”
For Republicans hoping to challenge Trump, the impeachment also carries serious political risks. A Republican strategist said the next few weeks could prove difficult for both outright and potential candidates.
For now, Trump’s rivals are backing him. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who jumped into the race last month, condemned the charges as a “dangerously politicized prosecution,” while former Vice President Pence, a potential 2024 candidate, called the allegation an “outrage.”
Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the charges against Trump, tweeting that the accusation is “more about revenge than justice.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has yet to announce a campaign but is expected to do so in the coming months, said he would not “assist in any extradition request.”
With information from The Hill and Associated Press.