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    The 2024 Campaign Turns into a Chess Match – “The Sunday Political Brunch”

    Sunday, August 20, 2023


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    Former President Donald Trump PHOTO: White House

    I am on the road the next two weekends in the key swing state of Florida. There have been a lot of interesting developments on the political stage, and in the courtroom… pivotal moments of this campaign may be coming soon. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.


    “Trump Indicted x Four” – To no one’s surprise, including his own, former President Donald Trump and scores of allies were indicted in the State of Georgia for alleged interference with the 2020 vote count. Among the others charged, are former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Trump lawyer and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Trump campaign issued a statement questioning the timing of the charges. “They could have brought this two and half years ago, yet they chose to do this for election interference reasons in the middle of President Trump’s successful campaign. He is not only leading all Republicans by a lot, but he is leading against Joe Biden in almost every poll,” the campaign statement said. But the first post-Georgia indictment poll by ABC-IPSOS, has Trump and Biden tied at 31 percent.



    “The Prosecutor Stands Her Ground” – Among the 100-page indictment charging Trump and eighteen others, are allegations team Trump tried to seize voting machines in rural Georgia, with the intent of altering the vote count. “The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result,” said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.


    “OK the Timing Smells to High Heaven” – The Georgia judge presiding over the case has now set a trial date of March 4, 2024, which is an interesting (and perhaps suspicious) choice. You see, the very next day is Super Tuesday when fourteen states will be holding presidential primary elections. And prior to March 4, five other states will have already held presidential primaries. You don’t suppose the prosecutor and judge are colluding to take Trump out at the kneecaps in prime time? As I have said in this column often, I am a registered independent. I have no party allegiance, so I have no dog in the hunt. This smells fishy!


    “On the Other Hand?” – It’s interesting to look at the political breakdown of the Super Tuesday states. Six of the states are red: Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. Five of the states are solidly blue: California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont. Three of the states are toss-up purple: North Carolina, Maine, and Virginia. So, has the judge really stacked the deck? I ask because Trump seems to surge in the polls every time he is indicted. It emboldens his base, and his support grows. By the way, prior to Super Tuesday, there are five primaries: Iowa, South Carolina are red, New York is blue, and Michigan and Nevada are purple. The political influence of the trial schedule may be hard to predict. On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers asked for an April 2026 trial date on one of his federal indictments.


    “Why this May be the Worst of the Four Indictments” – I fully expect the three federal cases, and this state case in Georgia to drag on and on, perhaps with years of appeals. In the meantime, Trump can continue to run for president again, and could win. If he does win, Trump can pardon himself and all his co-defendants on the federal charges. But the Georgia case, is for now, a state prosecution, and no president has pardon powers over that.


    “But Maybe Thers’s Some Wiggle Room” – The ink wasn’t even dry on the Georgia indictments Tuesday, when former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ legal team filed a brief to move the case to federal court. They argue that this was a federal election for a federal office, and so the federal court system would have proper legal jurisdiction. It’s a smart move if it succeeds, for the reasons I laid out above. Getting the Georgia case moved to federal court  reinstates the Trump pardon power. And no matter how the initial court ruling goes, expect appeals, and appeals, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. You can see this churning unresolved in the legal system for years, well beyond the 2024 primaries and election.


    “The GOP Debate Showdown Looms” – The big GOP debate in the key swing state of Wisconsin takes place on Wednesday, August 23 on Fox News. It will be a two-hour throwdown. Eight candidates have qualified, including Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, Chris Christie, and Doug Burgum. To be on the stage, all candidates must sign a pledge they will support the eventual nominee. That is where Trump has balked and refused. Will he change his mind? He has 48 hours before the debate to do so. My guess is that he will not sign it but will show up in my hometown of Milwaukee to create a sideshow of publicity aimed all at himself. It would not be the first time.


    “Is Florida Governor DeSantis Floundering?” – Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Florida is thought by many to be the Republicans best shot of knocking Donald Trump out of a second stint in the White House. So far, DeSantis has gained little traction on his fellow Floridian, and now comes some more troubling news. The latest Emerson College Poll shows DeSantis has slipped to third place in the key early primary state of New Hampshire. Mind you, Trump has a 40-point lead on his closest challenger, former Governor Chris Chistie (R) New Jersey, who is polling at 9 percent in the Granite State. DeSantis slipped to a close third with 8 percent. Christie has been the most aggressive at attacking Trump, but he and all other Republicans are so far behind Trump, I would not characterize Christie’s taking over second place as a “surge!”


    “The Strange Bedfellows of Presidential Politics” – I saw an interesting article the other day that suggested Trump and DeSantis “kiss and make-up” so that Trump could have DeSantis be his VP choice in 2024. It’s a smart strategic choice, since whether Trump wins or loses in 2024, DeSantis is clearly the 2028 frontrunner. But the problem is, both members of the ticket must be from different states according to the U.S. Constitution. So, the only way to make this kosher is for Trump to move his legal residence back to New York, or New Jersey. We saw a similar dilemma in 2000, when George W. Bush and Dick Chaney were both legal residents of Texas. Cheney simply moved back to his native state of Wyoming, and the problem went away. A 2024 copycat is possible.

    Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the seven Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and the entire Washington, DC media market. He is also a MINDSETTER™ contributing political writer and analyst for and its affiliates.



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