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For Donald Trump, a fall from grace could mean the point of no return, analyst says

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Since becoming the first-ever former U.S. president to face criminal indictment, Donald Trump has been able to effectively blaze the political and legal landscape with aplomb.

Landslide victories in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries have cemented the MAGA frontman’s absolute control over the Republican Party. However, a recent civil judgment against the would-be nominee is forcing hard questions and doubts about Trump’s longevity as the party frontrunner.

In a New York courtroom, a jury of Trump's peers, seven men and two women, needed only three hours to award E. Jean Carroll an astounding US$83.3 million judgment for defamation.

The judgment, one of two civil proceedings that will likely financially cripple the Republican standard-bearer could be a harbinger of what is to come.

Trump still faces a bevy of criminal cases and a conviction in any will undoubtedly derail his ambitions to retake the White House and potentially undermine his party’s chances of controlling Congress. The many legal entanglements, once used as political props fuelling his surge to the nomination, may no longer carry the same influence beyond the MAGA base.

Until now, Trump has seemingly taken great glee walking such a treacherous tightrope. However, as the legal losses snowball and the judgments and fines escalate, walking this political and legal fine line becomes more precarious for the mercurial former Commander-in-Chief.

Until recently, Donald Trump’s many court appearances appeared harmless; more stagecraft for a cunning showman attempting to inflame his base. Delaying tactics, appeals, frivolous arguments were just some of the strategies employed by the Trump legal team to obfuscate, avoid, and ultimately grind court proceedings to a halt.

Even with a less-than-stellar cadre of lawyers at the helm, the strategy worked like a charm. However, one sobering judgment brings into clear focus the massive ramifications facing Trump, the party and movement he leads with an iron fist. The former reality television star, a seasoned and skilled marketer, played the aggrieved and persecuted role better than any award-winning thespian. Yet, just as his support was reaching a fevered pitch under the self-enacted glare of grievance, a monumental loss in court has crystallized the limits of the former real estate mogul's grand plot.

Now, the man who abhors the “loser” moniker could see himself on the precipice of suffering a string of stinging courtroom defeats. A New York judge, who has already found Donald Trump liable for fraud, could return a civil judgment nearing $400 million. Legal experts believe an appellate court could rule against the twice-impeached ex-president on his immunity claim relating to charges brought in the January 6 case. Lastly, the Supreme Court will have the final say on two states initial rulings, Colorado and Maine, to keep Trump off the primary ballot.

Donald Trump 2024

Cloaking himself in victimhood proved to be an effective repellent against primary political rivals. Now, as Trump seeks to pivot to the general election, he has once again come full circle. His mounting court cases, once derided as disqualifying by the GOP, eventually became a rallying cry for the MAGA base is now once again, a crippling and polarizing anvil weighing down Trump’s candidacy with key groups he will need to win in November.

A new Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll found that 53 per cent of voters surveyed in swing states are unwilling to vote for the former president if convicted in one of his multiple criminal cases. The poll shows that an overwhelming majority of female voters, respondents over 65 and those with college degrees would not support Trump’s candidacy if he is convicted. In a general election matchup, these invaluable swing voters surely will be the difference between victory and defeat.

Yet, if there’s one constant about Trump, a narrative shift is definitely on the horizon. His art of reinvention is as ubiquitous as his “Art of the Deal.” Rest assured, like a mad scientist, the presidential aspirant will create a narrative he hopes will hypnotize enough independent voters to secure him the 270 electoral votes needed to vanquish Joe Biden in the fall.

Unfortunately for Trump, the nation saw this attempt at political transformation in 2020 after his bout with COVID-19. It did not work then and after nearly a decade of the charade, swing voters might be inoculated from the Trump political potion.

Sexual assault survivor E. Jean Carroll, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and Republican primary candidate Nikki Haley are the vanguards of resistance. Each has stood their respective ground in defiance of the MAGA magic. Carroll and quite possibly James, are the truly elite; puncturing the veil of brutishness rendering Trump pedestrian. Now, Haley, seeing a weakness exposed, has pounced.

The once great aura of ultimate power and dominance exposed as myth. Each new loss; each record judgment; each courtroom setback makes every step Trump takes along this tightrope more fraught with peril.

A steadily rising burn rate; a tranche of court cases; a pesky primary opponent that won’t quit; and a well-funded incumbent President of the United States waiting in the wings are all stacked against Trump. One seismic ruling (appeals loss on immunity); another jaw-dropping civil judgment ($370 million fraud case); one primary win (unlikely) by Haley and the Trump tightrope could potentially snap!

Perhaps no American political figure since Richard Nixon has travelled such a tortuous and chaotic path than Trump. The former president is well-versed at crashing and rising from the ashes; he has done this his entire professional career. Never, though, have the stakes been this high. A lengthy prison sentence staring him in the face; potential financial ruin barrelling down his back and an exasperated electorate all could trip him up. This time is for keeps and a fall from grace could mean the point of no return.

Eric Ham is a bestselling author and former congressional staffer in the U.S. Congress. He served as a contributor to TheHill.com and The Washington Diplomat. He resides in Washington, DC.

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