President Joe Biden, left, and former President Donald Trump, right, in a composite image.
Democrats mostly see electoral upsides for President Joe Biden if Donald Trump gets indicted.
If an indictment doesn’t cost Trump the GOP primary, it would hover over his general election campaign.
It would remind voters of his baggage and overshadow House GOP probes of Biden, they say.
President Joe Biden would find himself in uncharted waters in 2024 if he ends up running for re-election against the first former president to be under indictment.
But Democrats mostly see mostly upsides for Biden, despite Donald Trump’s boasting that potential charges for an alleged hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels will help his electoral prospects.
If an indictment doesn’t cost Trump the GOP primary, it will hover over his general election campaign, serving as a reminder of his chaotic presidential administration, Democrats say. And it would overshadow House Republicans’ investigations of Biden and his family.
Trump, who was twice impeached, is combating the perception, even among some Republicans, that he “has a lot of baggage and he’s a loser,” said Josh Schwerin, a former spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Hillary Clinton.
“This just increases that baggage and reminds people how scandal-plagued he is and puts the obviously very real legal threat on top of the political scandal,” he told Insider.
Here are some takeaways on what an indictment would mean for Biden.
Republicans could nominate a weak opponent
Trump’s most ardent supporters would likely stand by him if he faces charges and it’s indeed possible other Republican primary voters would fall in line, too.
Democratic pollster and consultant Brad Bannon said a Trump indictment would galvanize support from Republicans who live in “bizarro world” and consider it an example of an “oppressive government beating up on their guy.”
That’s good for Biden, he said, because it would be preferable for him to run against Trump rather than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to enter the race.
“Anything that’s good for Trump in a Republican primary is also good for Biden,” Bannon said. “I just think DeSantis is a bigger threat to Biden than Trump is.”
However, it’s still early. And it’s unclear whether Trump is the weaker opponent or if he can even win enough support from GOP primary voters to become the nominee.
Trump’s support has softened among Republicans and “disaffected Republican primary voters who are sick of seeing Trump and his preferred candidates losing aren’t gonna like this,” said Schwerin.
A positive split-screen for Biden
Part of Biden’s 2020 pitch to voters was that he would save them from agita over the Trump administration’s chaos.
A Trump indictment in the Stormy Daniels case would reinforce the contrast “between sort of normal, boring politics that people can ignore and the chaos and crisis-to-crisis politics of the Trump years,” said Matt Lehrich, a former Obama White House spokesperson who founded Be Clear Communications.
If he’s also indicted in Georgia for possible interference in the 2020 election, it also puts a spotlight back on the “big lie” that he won, which consistently has been an unpopular message, Lehrich said.
“It would remind everybody of a thing that is very unpopular about him,” Lehrich said.
An even messier GOP primary
A Trump indictment would likely deepen the divide in the GOP primary between the hardcore MAGA faithful and establishment Republicans who want to move on from Trump and worry that he’ll sink their electoral chances.
Senate Republicans already have told Insider they have no problem with an ugly GOP primary because it will help them get the best candidate.
Democrats say they also welcome a nasty Republican primary, especially when Biden is expected to run without any significant opposition.
“The messier Republicans are, the better we look in comparison,” Schwerin said.
What House GOP investigation?
If Trump is indicted, that event will likely dominate the news for the foreseeable future — not Hunter Biden’s laptop.
That’s bad news for the GOP-led House committees that are investigating Biden’s son, his business dealings, and the sitting president. At the very least, the GOP oversight agenda would draw less attention in the near term.
Schwerin said voters will see the investigations as a GOP political tool to distract from their own problems.
“I think it all becomes noise,” Schwerin said. “There’s a lot of overreach and that becomes more and more apparent as the Republican scandals mount.”
The downside: Cutting through ‘noise’ could be hard
It’s possible that a Trump indictment would make Americans so sick of the entire political system that “they say ‘Screw this,'” Bannon said.
“That kind of environment could hurt an incumbent president if Americans just throw up their hands and say, ‘The whole system’s corrupt, we’ve got to make change,'” he said.
But people have been frustrated for years, Schwerin noted. The greater difficulty might be breaking through Trump’s headlines to talk about his policy agenda.
It would likely require some creative thinking from Biden’s communications team because Trump’s problems “will just suck up a lot of oxygen in the room,” Lehrich said.