Watch Nidhi Razdan: What next as Trump’s legal worries grow? Video Credit: Gulf News

Donald Trump got two huge legal blows in recent weeks. The first was a verdict by a New York civil jury which ordered the former US President to pay $83.3 million in damages to the writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after assaulting her in 1996. Even though Trump denied the allegation, the jury did not agree and found him guilty of “emotional harm”, “reputational damage” and ordered a payout of $65 million in punitive damages alone.

Several days later, a New York judge ordered Trump to pay $355 million in penalties for lying to banks about his wealth and also put a scanner on how his businesses are run. Though his real estate companies have not been dissolved and he won’t be out of money, the two rulings have come as a shock to the man who may very well return to the White House next January.

Trump now faces more than 90 charges in 4 criminal cases. This includes the hush money case where he is accused of paying $130,000 to an adult film star to keep quiet about an affair with him and then falsifying his accounts to show this as legal fees. This trial will start next month in late March and will be the first criminal trial of a US president. There is also the case related to the Capitol riots and whether Trump conspired to overthrow Biden’s 2020 election win. However it’s not yet clear whether the trial will begin before or after the November general election.

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Die hard support base

A third criminal case trial is also likely to be postponed to after November. So the big question is — how will all of this affect Trump’s re election bid? Trump has milked the cases he faces as “political vendetta” against him, a strategy that has so far only worked with his die hard support base.

A poll done by the New York Times and Siena College in December showed that 62% of Republican primary voters backed Trump as the nominee even if he is convicted of a crime. 87% of Republican primary voters believed the same in New Hampshire, where Trump won comfortably last month. But this is largely his committed base.

Experts say Trump could face trouble with swing voters and more moderate republicans who may not take too kindly to seeing a convicted felon as President. Last month, a poll by Morning Consult and Bloomberg showed that 53% of registered voters in 7 swing states would not vote for Trump if he was convicted. This included 23% republican voters. 55% said they would not vote for Trump if he goes to jail.

A Gallup poll released in late January found that only 29% of Americans would vote for a candidate charged with a felony, like Trump. Another poll done in South Carolina by the Washington Post/Monmouth University found that 36% of Republican party primary voters would want Trump to be replaced as the Republican nominee if he were convicted after winning the nomination. 62% said they would vote for Trump if he were convicted and remained on the ballot.

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Moderate and swing voters

What is crucial here is when the trials of the criminal cases start. Polls have shown that most of the American public does not see the hush money to an adult star as the most serious charge against Trump which should disqualify him from office. This is trial which starts in March.

A poll done by YouGuv and Yahoo News showed that only 40% believed this case would make him unfit to be Commander in chief.

Most legal experts don’t believe he will get jail time for this case anyway. However the other cases are seen are greater crimes and could potentially see prison sentences.

The trial dates however are uncertain. In an election that shows Trump neck and neck with Biden, how the American people (moderate and swing voters in particular) view these criminal charges against Trump, will determine the outcome.