What does Trump's felony conviction mean for the US election?

What does Trump's felony conviction mean for the US election?
Analysts say it's too soon to tell what effect Trump's verdict will have on the election. One thing for sure is that he's determined to use it to his advantage.
4 min read
Washington, D.C.
02 June, 2024
Former President Donald Trump was convicted this week in New York state court. [Getty]

With former President Donald Trump's felony conviction on all 34 counts of falsifying business records, questions have naturally turned to how or if this will affect the general election.

Many Democrats are celebrating as though the election is over. It's far from over, and if it were held today, Trump would likely win, given his leads in most swing states and his boosts in fundraising following each trial. In the betting market, PredictIt shows Trump maintaining a slight edge over Biden.

Moreover, as many have already pointed out, nothing about Trump's convictions prevents him from running for or becoming president. The only requirements for presidency under the constitution are: being 35 years or older, being a natural born citizen, and have lived in the US for at least 14 years.

There is no disqualification for being a convicted criminal, though some would argue this is because the founding fathers didn't see it as necessary. It is noteworthy that in most US states it is legal to disqualify a job applicant based on criminal background, and in many states a convicted felon can be disqualified from voting.

At this point, polling is probably the best predictor of how Trump's latest conviction will affect the election, specifically ones where respondents are asked to say how the trial affected their view of Trump. Such polls could take several weeks, but they could be telling either way.

"It may take weeks for swing voters, and those who are just now tuning into the election, to process this news. We are in truly 'uncharted waters,' so to speak," J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told The New Arab.

"Hypothetical polling has generally given Biden at least a slight edge over a convicted Trump, but by definition, those polls were hypothetical. Let's see how swing voters react now that push has come to shove, and this is now the concrete choice," he said.

On the other hand, aside from a relatively small number of swing voters, the ruling has the potential to energise the parties' bases, which has already been seen with Trump's reported fundraising boost. It's unclear whether Biden could get a similar boost given his slump in the polls with his base over the war in Gaza and with general voters over perennial issues like cost of living, crime and border security.

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Paul Beck, professor emeritus at Ohio State University, is cautious about seeing the verdict as a boost for Trump, given that the former president has been shown to have lied before (as was seen in his recent trial), so he is waiting until the end of June to see the Federal Election Commission filings to confirm the Trump campaign's self-reported campaign contributions.

"I'd be careful about what's said about the money that's coming in. We just don't know what those numbers are. Campaigns often report exaggerated figures," he told TNA, adding that he'll also wait several weeks for polling that reflects the verdict.

"I think people are discouraged about politics in general," he said, noting that both Trump and Biden and the least popular candidates in the history of US presidential polling.

Nevertheless, he still sees Trump as unusually effective in portraying himself as a relatable victim.

"He does a particularly effective job in spinning things in his favour. Trump is a classic victim. In some ways, it's his strongest suit," he said.

As many of Trump's critics continue to celebrate the verdict, there's one person who knows him well who is cautioning against complacency. Alyssa Farah Griffin, a host of the popular morning TV show The View, who previously worked in the Trump White House, reminded viewers that Trump still has time for the judicial process to drag on through the election.

"Knowing Donald Trump personally, there's something in him that thinks he's untouchable and thinks he will get away with everything," she told millions of TV viewers following the verdict.  

"There's a world in which he could get away with this if he becomes president before this is fully adjudicated. And running for president to stay out of jail is a hell of a motivator. He's going to do and say absolutely anything he can to get elected, so buckle up because it's rage and retribution ahead."