Nineteen charged with election conspiracy in Georgia
Trial will probably be televised
GOP inclined to stand behind Trump
To the surprise of nobody following the subject, Donald Trump has been indicted in Georgia, along with 18 allies, for conspiring to illegally overturn the 2020 election. That brings the tally to four, following federal charges over Jan 6th and classified documents, plus the New York hush money case.
Odds unmoved by indictments
It is also no surprise to see that these latest extraordinary developments - despite being a once in a lifetime scenario before Trump entered politics - have so far failed to meaningfully move the 2024 betting. Our exchange odds of 1.444/9 imply he's 69% likely to be the Republican Nominee and at 3.613/5, a 28% chance to win the election.
Clearly, the Georgia indictment was already factored in. Really it has ever since we heard Trump's phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger at the time, asking him to find 11,000 votes.
A consensus seems to have emerged that being convicted as a felon, even on multiple, worsening charges, won't affect his electability. That US voters and opinion is entrenched.
No doubt, the US electorate is indeed extremely polarised, but I wouldn't describe it as fixed over such a unique issue.
TV trial will fuel engagement
The election campaign has barely started and engagement is low. The primaries are not yet, and may never become, exciting. But once Trump's trials begin - perhaps as early as January - their coverage will consume the entire campaign. That drama, part of which now seems sure to be televised, surely has some potential to move votes.
The dangers to the Republican Party cannot be overstated. The indictments are overshadowing their primary, in which opposition to Trump is muted. His two closest pursuers are more than 30% behind and the candidates prepared to criticise him are even further back.
GOP daren't drop Trump
Soon, the party may have to jump fully behind this candidate, just as he is being convicted. Party strategists are terrified of taking Trump on. They don't believe the rural vote will turn out in anything like the required number without him. I agree. It is hard to see the party making any move to prevent him being their nominee, regardless of criminal convictions.
Thus, their entire national campaign will be set against the backdrop of these trials and whatever daily madness Trump forces them to defend.
TV trial will expose blatant conspiracy
The Georgia trial will probably be televised.
The indictments lay out a clear conspiracy, involving well-known characters such as Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows and the conspiracy theorist lawyers who sprung to the fame during that disputed transition. They include a scheme to forge fake electors to rig the electoral college and interfering with voting machines.
The charges perfectly entwine with the federal charges regarding Jan 6th and the denial of voting rights. We may see parts of those two trials merge.
On the basis of what we already know, (which is plenty), Team Trump can only come out of it all looking bad, losing the battle for public opinion, hardening and mobilising opposition among independents.
GOP on course for campaign disaster
Meanwhile Trump will continue to smear and threaten via his social media. On recent form, he could well end up being remanded.
Republicans up and down the land will have to defend it all. They'll also be asked to commit to accepting the results of the next election. To disavow the violent white supremacist groups who were central to the 2020 insurrection.
This must amount to the worst electoral campaign plan in history. And it comes after elections that should already worry Republicans.
Yes, they sneaked the House of Representatives last November but it was a poor result given mid-term turnout advantages. They were critically hampered by extreme, terrible candidates endorsed by Trump and in tune with the MAGA chorus.
On a general election turnout, amounting to another referendum on Trump, I make the Democrats clear favourites to win the House and Biden to beat Trump again.
The 2.0621/20 about the Democrats to be Winning Party looks a steal. A majority of Americans have always been opposed to 'Trumpism' and that number rises when his wrongdoing takes central stage.
Georgia is essential to Trump winning
That the indictment has come in Georgia, attempting to deny their voting rights, carries profound importance.
Without winning this state, it is extremely hard to identify a path to the electoral college for Trump or any Republican. It remains marginally red, demonstrated by Governor Brian Kemp's comfortable re-election. Yet they have lost three Senate races in two years.
Trump played a role in all three defeats. His election denial was blamed for demotivating GOP voters. Kemp and Raffensberger stood firm against him and became enemies, yet still won. Trump's fabled power over the GOP base has been punctured in Georgia. I think he'd lose again to Biden here and thus lose the election.
In any case, he could win it and still likely lose without gaining Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.
With Trump, there is another scenario which feels impossible to calculate. The moment when something which has felt unsustainable from the outset, yet defied the odds, actually becomes unsustainable.
The sudden meltdown or withdrawal. Events changing the weather, meaning Trump is somehow blocked from the nomination. That he is ultimately denied at a brokered convention.
Pence could fare best of the rest
This is the unspoken context of the ongoing primary. The first TV debate is next week but Trump is likely to swerve it.
What may appear an irrelevant sideshow will nonetheless be fought fiercely by candidates playing the long game. Stay in the race, gather delegates and be prepared for disaster hitting the front-runner.
Were a brokered convention to happen, it would become a free-for-all. Others who didn't even enter the primaries would be mooted.
One speculative bet appeals at odds of 130.0129/1 - Mike Pence is likely to stay in, and has risen slightly in the polls. Refusing to do Trump's bidding has alienated the majority, but he appears principled as a result. There is a faction among GOP primary voters who appreciate that. He should wear Trump's label of being 'too honest' as a badge of honour.
Plus Pence always had a big following among evangelicals. I can see him finishing a distant second to Trump and staying in the conversation. Given the uncertainty, those odds would then likely collapse.
Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his website, Political Gambler.