Trump Indictment: The Message Wars
Trump's legal situation is precarious, but he 's maximizing his political position
Donald Trump was arraigned in Miami on criminal charges for the second time in two months.
Note the absolute insanity of the leader of the Republican Party and a favorite for the Republican nomination being charged with 37 felony counts and then attending a campaign fundraiser with support from most of his party’s leaders. After eight years, we can feel uncomfortably numb to the latest Trump outrage. None of this is normal. It’s fucking nuts. YOU know that, but I feel we must keep reminding ourselves in the midst of this bizarre period in American history.
Ever since the news broke last week, Trump has moved aggressively to frame the indictment on his terms. He has attended campaign rallies and went directly from the courthouse to a popular Cuban restaurant to paint a picture of normalcy. His Super PAC went up with this ad to contextualize the indictment:
The polling shows that Trump’s political strategy has been successful. He has maintained his strong position at the top of the GOP field.
From a messaging perspective, Democrats are in an odd position. President Joe Biden is our most powerful messenger. He has the biggest megaphone and sets the message for the party. Yet, for reasons of law and politics, President Biden cannot and should not say anything about the case being prosecuted by a Special Counsel appointed by his Department of Justice. From now until the moment a jury renders a verdict, the President, his campaign, and his spokespeople have to “no comment” everytime the biggest news story in the United States is mentioned. If they slip up once, the press will leap to accuse the President of acting like Trump and politicizing the Department of Justice. Those accusations will be bad faith B.S., as well as annoying and distracting. You can imagine the cable soliloquies, tweets, and columns from all the usual suspects.
Given the expectation that the documents case could be delayed well into the general election, this dynamic could persist throughout the bulk of the campaign. The President cannot mention in a rally or in an ad that his opponent put the nation’s security at risk by violating the Espionage Act.
For this reason, there has been a messaging vacuum on the Democratic side in the days since the indictment came down. Most Democrats were content to stand aside and let the facts of the indictment carry the day. For every Democrat not working in the Biden Administration or campaign, I think silence could end up being a mistake.
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