Democrats torn over Trump conviction 1 week later

A week after a New York jury found former President Trump guilty of falsifying business records, Democrats are torn over whether the conviction will help President Biden in November.

Trump’s campaign announced a $35 million fundraising haul after the guilty verdict and more than $140 million raised in May. Establishment Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are coming to his defense, supercharging the GOP support for him.

Biden and his party are trying to use the conviction to rally Democrats and turn voters against Trump. Biden himself tested out calling Trump a convicted felon this week.

But in what is expected to be a tight race that may be decided on the margins, Democrats aren’t sure the first ever conviction of a former president on criminal charges is a massive win for Biden.

“I think the prevailing view is it is an extremely close election and the conviction, while not a game changer, helps on the margins with a small group of voters,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist and donor. “It may temporarily juice enthusiasm on Trump side but doesn’t gain any new voters for him.”

The New York jury found Trump guilty on all counts of falsifying business records to conceal alleged affairs during his 2016 campaign.

When asked by ABC’s David Muir on Thursday how important he thinks the conviction will be in the election, Biden said “that’s for the public to decide.”

The president called Trump a convicted felon at a fundraiser in Connecticut, and his campaign has blasted out emails and fundraising requests with the same label.

“Look, folks, this campaign has entered uncharted territory.  Last week, for the first time in American history, a former president is convicted — a convicted felon.  He’s now seeking the office of the presidency,” Biden told donors.

Some though are skeptical the efforts will work given Trump’s ability to deflect controversy and scandal.

“It seems intentional to call him a convicted felon, there’s a stigma attached to it, sure. But, how’s that any different from the stigma attached to Trump since the 1980s? American made their deal with Trump in 2016, warts and all. The question is whether they’ll give him a chance again,” one former Biden campaign aide told The Hill.

Polling this week has found Trump’s support remaining steady in the aftermath of his convictions. A poll Thursday from Emerson College showed his support among registered voters stayed at 46 percent, identical to where it was in April.

The poll also found that a quarter of voters said the conviction means they’re more likely to support Trump.

A New York Times/Siena College recontact poll showed Trump’s lead over Biden taking a dip, with a group of voters before the verdict favoring him over Biden by 3 percent and only by 1 percent after the verdict.

“Polls show that there has been some movement away from Trump in the week following the trial. Whether this is a turning point in the race remains to be seen,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at Third Way.

A source familiar with the Biden campaign’s thinking said, “it’s going to be close and it’s going to be decided on the issues at the ballot box between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, convicted felon or not.”

Biden is separately dealing with his son Hunter Biden’s trial on gun charges, another potential factor in the election.

The president reiterated this week that he won’t pardon his son and he would accept the outcome of the trial, setting a contrast to Trump, who has claimed his trial was rigged.

Biden has said it is “irresponsible” for Trump to say the trial was rigged. He also told ABC that Trump should “stop undermining the rule of law, stop undermining institutions.”

“All the MAGA Republicans are coming out saying this was a fix, this was a curated — that this was a good judge that set up to get Trump. There’s no evidence of any of that. None,” Biden said, adding that the verdict should be respected.

Biden’s message seems to resonate with independents, a critical voting block for both sides. The majority of independents in a recent CBS News/YouGov poll said Trump received a fair trial, aligning with Biden.

Some point to Trump’s conviction as a clear hit against him as a candidate, arguing that can only help Biden in the long run.

“Everyone knows this is going to be a razor-thin race, but being the candidate who isn’t a convicted felon 34 times over — with more criminal indictments hanging over his head — is certainly helpful, to say the least,” one former White House staffer told The Hill.

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