A Prediction

I probably should have given up prognosticating after the 2016 election, when I predicted that Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton. I have hardly gotten one right since. But a little while ago, on Sky News Australia, I offered a prediction that I will repeat here.

The question was, what do I think Judge Merchan’s sentence will be? I prefaced my answer with the observation that Merchan will do whatever he thinks will best aid Joe Biden in winning the election, which was the whole point of the prosecution. I don’t think Merchan will jail Trump, as that would risk a backlash in Trump’s favor.

I think it more likely that Merchan will sentence Trump to house arrest. He would wear an ankle bracelet and be confined to his home, which I assume means Mar-a-Lago. The purpose of such a sentence would be to neutralize one of Trump’s key advantages: he is an excellent campaigner, perhaps the best of recent times, while Joe Biden is too senile to campaign effectively, if at all. Cooping Trump up at home, allowing him to campaign via video but not in person, would help to minimize the contrast between Trump’s vigor and Biden’s senility.

The main purpose of this corrupt prosecution was to brand Trump a “convicted felon,” but neutralizing Trump’s ability to campaign would confer a significant, if secondary, benefit on the Democratic Party.

On a separate but related point, I think the conviction, and the branding of Trump as a “convicted felon,” does hurt him. Yes, a sense of outrage will lead some Trump fans to open their wallets wider, and a few fair-minded people who understand what a travesty the prosecution was will migrate toward Trump. But overall, I fear that the effect of Trump’s conviction will be both negative and significant.

This Harris overnight poll is the first one I have seen, and its findings are troubling. It has Trump and Biden essentially in a dead heat. But look at how independent voters, in particular, view the New York prosecution.

By 52%/48%, independents thought the trial was “fair and unbiased” vs. “politically motivated.” By 60%/40%, independent voters think Trump was “mostly guilty” of the crimes with which he was charged, as opposed to “largely not guilty.” Independents think Trump’s trial was fair by 60%/40%, the jury was fair by 62%/38%, and the judge was fair by 61%/39%. 68% of independents say they understand what Trump was found guilty of, but that can’t possibly be right, since no one understands that.

When it comes to sentence, 42% of independents say Trump should so to prison, and 51% say he should get either prison or home confinement.

Time remains for Republicans to try to shift perceptions of the New York prosecution and trial, but the Democrats knew what they were doing when they set out brand Trump as a “convicted felon.” It will have an impact, particularly on low-information voters.

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