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Are Republicans heading towards a “third option” in the elections?


Lawsuits against Trump threaten his chances of returning to the White House

Will former US President Donald Trump suffer the same fate that Hillary Clinton faced in the 2016 elections, due to the “politicized” lawsuits he faces, as his supporters like to describe them? Which may lead to his losing the 2024 elections, in which he aspires to be the only Republican candidate in front of his Democratic opponent, whoever he is? A question that has escalated in recent times, due to the open judicial investigations against him, some of which are likely to take on a criminal nature, which may lead to charges being brought against him. These accusations may have inevitable political effects on his election campaign, especially since the list of his competitors – at least in his Republican Party – is full of heavy weights. Similarities with Clinton, who was under investigation for misusing an email server when she was Secretary of State. The matter ended with the disclosure of information that damaged her campaign, even without being charged. This may happen again with Trump, even if he is not charged with a crime. Because the repercussions of the cases brought against him are sufficient, at least, to deprive him of the support of a broad base of American voters, especially independents, who had previously lined up with his opponents, before the polls in 2020 to vote against his renewal. On that day, the mass participation returned, the largest in the history of the US elections, with a difference of more than 7 million votes, which was won by his rival, Joe Biden.

Former US President Donald Trump faces legal and legislative scrutiny, the largest in history against a former president, as he is under investigation by the Department of Justice and prosecutors in Manhattan, New York, and Fulton County, Georgia, and by the attorney general of the same state.

The Department of Justice is investigating the handling of classified documents found at his home in Mar-a-Lago, and the efforts made by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, in connection with the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. In Fulton County, Georgia, he leads Attorney General There is a criminal investigation related to the 2020 elections, while the state attorney general is leading a parallel investigation into Trump’s efforts to annul her election results.

Also, the New York Attorney General sued Trump, three of his children and his family business for a host of alleged violations. “The jury, within the scope of the investigations of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, yesterday indicted Trump in the case of “silence money” paid by the former president to a pornographic actress in 2016. Although no current or former president has been accused of a crime in the history of the United States, the possibilities today are open to the possibility of at least one “criminal accusation”, which may put Trump in a difficult position regarding his chances of success in returning to the White House.

According to the case against the former president, Trump asked his former attorney and key witness in the case, Michael Cohen, to pay $130,000 to actress Thorby Daniels for her silence. Although paying this money would not have violated New York laws, the manner in which it was paid was deemed illegal by prosecutors. Here, prosecutors say that Trump lied in his financial statements when he said that he paid the amount to Cohen for his “fees as a lawyer.”

Although this violation is a minor criminal case (misdemeanor) in New York, the timing of paying this amount in an election season from a presidential candidate is the most important issue facing Trump, because it is a violation of election law by seeking to conceal the truth of the money and its destination, to influence the choices of voters. This is a crime punishable by law, and its punishment ranges from paying a fine to imprisonment for 4 years. However, since Trump’s imprisonment is very unlikely, and his arrest may not exceed a few hours, Trump’s adherence to the program of his electoral moves has shed light on the nature of his next steps, if he is charged. Observers expect him to escalate the incitement of his supporters, and intensify his attacks on his opponents and the American judiciary, after he described the Manhattan Attorney General as an “animal.”

Likewise, knowing that he will not go to prison, he seeks to mitigate scenes that may lead to weakening his image in front of his constituents, especially the process of entering the courtroom, which he is keen to be devoid of scenes of arrest. While it is likely that prosecutors will cooperate with Trump’s defense team to “coordinate” his entry into the chamber, the procedures inside are the same as for any defendant. As the employees will take his fingerprints and a picture of his arrest, and read his general rights, which remind him of his right to appoint a lawyer and avoid talking to the police without the presence of his lawyer. On the other hand, he excludes handcuffs out of respect for his former position, but he will sit in a waiting room before appearing before the judge, who will publicly read the charges against him, and set his release on bail pending the date of the trial.

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Trump, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, faces major question marks from the Republican political establishment. She is now wondering whether supporting the “most popular candidate” is inevitable, or is thinking about a “reserve candidate” more than necessary? The experience of the midterm elections in 2022 does not bode well, especially since the majority of the party’s candidates who support conspiracy theories and doubt the integrity of the elections – that is, those supported by Trump – lost the elections. Consequently, they caused the inability of the Republicans to create a “red wave” (i.e. sweeping the battles of the states).

In the program of activities this spring for the gathering of governors and donors that will be held in Sea Island, Georgia, marking the opening of the Republican primaries season, it was remarkable that there was no participation of Trump, or of Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, the luckiest and most credible of his rival.

This “assembly” was considered an indication that the party establishment might have started searching for a “third option,” fearing that Trump’s early and violent attacks on De Santis would lead to the fragmentation of the solid base of the Republicans, and the reluctance of many of them to vote in the elections. And while the specter of Trump’s threat to run as an “independent” hangs over him, in line with his claims to voters who believe that he is an independent figure who basically rejects the “political establishment” in Washington, the Republican Party fears a defection, while many experts and critics agree that the party has a large group of Eligible characters. Of course, this may mean forfeiting the chance to win over the Democrats, who are looking for an alternative to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Surprisingly, polls indicate that less than 30 percent of Democrats support their candidacy in the 2024 elections.

However, recent tactics used by some of Trump’s rival Republican candidates to discredit him have raised concerns that they could damage the party’s image. Despite him – i.e. Trump – leading the opinion polls in the primaries, many Republican voters expressed their annoyance with Trump’s tactics and his alleged “injustice”, as well as their desire for a new leadership, despite their continued admiration for him.

Donors are suspicious of De Santis

On the other side of the scene, Ron DeSantis is still waiting to announce his entry into the presidential race, even though he is the most competitive candidate with the former president, according to opinion polls. Indeed, several US media outlets have quoted Republican donors, strategists, and voters as wanting to search for a “backup alternative”, amid questions about how De Santis would behave in a long confrontation with Trump… and how he would be able to distinguish himself from him, without antagonizing the popular base. supporter of the former president.

The Florida governor’s political comments about the Ukraine war also alarmed donors, who are closely watching his remarks, especially after the negative reaction he received from many Republicans to his initial description of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial conflict.” Although De Santis later retracted these statements, and hardened his tone during an interview with journalist commentator Piers Morgan, claiming that his words were “mischaracterized,” and he described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal,” some saw that his political “confusion” prompted a number of From potential donors to wondering if he is ready for the grueling electoral race, and to take on his other rivals, not just Trump?

Donors are also watching the “pressure group” that was formed this week under the name “Never Back Down” to lead the de Santis campaign, amid doubts about its ability to coordinate closely with him, and the conflicting loyalties among its members from the campaigns of other former and current candidates, and from former Trump aides and advisors.

Focusing on De Santis’ weaknesses, many donors kept the door open to other potential competitors, so as not to repeat the “scenario” of the 2016 primaries, Trump’s “populist” ability to destroy his rivals, as happened with Jeb Bush, one of the most prominent presidential candidates in That year and the former governor of Florida as well. Although Bush managed to collect more than $100 million in the summer of 2015, some fear that the same thing will happen with De Santis, which requires searching for a third “reserve candidate.”

Meanwhile, with Trump blamed for the Republicans’ loss of the midterm elections last year by supporting extremist candidates, and facing several judicial investigations that could lead to criminal charges, Trump sought to use those threats to collect small donations from his popular base, and incite them to “take back America.” He even went further, warning with a number of his supporters of the outbreak of “catastrophic repercussions” and of “exploding the country,” according to Senator Lindsey Graham, if he is charged by the Manhattan Attorney General.

However, the donors’ reaction indicates that they are looking for a “winning horse” that is less polarizing. Until now, Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, is still a major potential Republican nominee. And with Pence preparing to appear before the commission of inquiry into the “January 6 events” (the attack on the Capitol), some expect him to reveal information about Trump’s role in them, which could seriously harm the former president’s campaign. In the event that this happens, some are betting that Pence will become a “national hero”, not necessarily in front of Trump’s base, but in front of Americans in general, which may enable him to obtain the support of a large segment of independents and Democrats reluctant to support Biden.

For information, Trump faces other competitors, including the black Republican Senator, Tim Scott, who enjoys the support of a number of major right-wing donors, led by billionaire Larry Ellison, co-founder and chairman of the software company “Oracle”, in addition to an active base for collecting small donations. Scott’s allies have expressed optimism about his chances, saying they expect him to run a campaign with broader appeal in the general election as well.

Trump is also facing his former ally Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, who attacked him in front of a crowd of New Hampshire voters, Monday evening during an event at one of its universities. Although Christie said that he would make his final decision about the candidacy in next June, he warned that the party should avoid “this pit of anger and revenge,” whether caused by Trump or “any of the candidates who will try to be like the former president.” A reference to De Santis. Christie added that this approach “will lose just as Trump lost in 2020.” He then referred to Trump’s attacks on Senator Marco Rubio during a 2016 debate, which many Republicans saw as a devastating blow that caused Rubio to lose the primary. Christie concluded, “You better have someone at that point who can do to him what he did to Marco, because that’s the only thing that will defeat Donald Trump.”

Fox News refuses to follow Trump’s activities

> The efforts of Donald Trump and his election campaign to win the Republican race were further complicated by the floundering of the Republican-affiliated media in tracking his news and reporting his statements and positions regarding the judicial cases against him. Recently, it was noted that the Fox News station was reticent to follow his activities, and even blocked his comments on its websites, especially those that show his confusion in answering questions related to investigations into the issue of paying “silence money” or obstructing FBI investigators. (FBI) from obtaining confidential documents in Mar-a-Lago, or his attacks on his competitors, led by Ron DeSantis. Observers saw this as an indication, either of concern about the consequences of these accusations on Trump’s chances, or of indirect bias towards De Santis, which the station – or at least its bosses, especially its CEO Rupert Murdoch – had previously considered “the best move away from Trump”. He repeats his policies, but without being Trump.

De Santis addresses his supporters (AP)

In an interview with the station’s main presenter, Sean Hannity – the first in months – Trump launched sharp attacks on De Santis, saying that had it not been for his support, he would now be “a pizza seller or a law firm and not the governor of Florida.” He added, in a likely untrue claim, that De Santis “came to him crying” seeking his endorsement, but the station’s website and social media pages deleted these clips, as did Trump’s confused answers to Hannity’s questions about the judicial investigations, despite his efforts. the last to help him. According to commentators, what is happening now shows Fox News’ return to its previous policies in dealing with Trump. In the past six months, he has been mentioned nearly four times more often than de Santis. Although the station mentioned Biden twice as often as Trump – although the majority of its comments were critical of Democrat policies – its coverage of De Santis increased in the first three months of this year, by nearly half the number of mentions of him in the whole of 2022, which may indicate that Things between “Fox News” and Trump are not going well.

Hannity on “Fox News” (AP)