GREENSBORO, NC — If Republicans in North Carolina are any guide, it’s that most loyalists will stick with former President Donald Trump no matter how many times he is impeached.
How more moderate voters will react is a mystery, Tar Heel state Republicans said: There has never been a candidate like the former president seeking another term in the White House in 2024.
“If he gets the nomination, we’ll have a candidate who will be on the campaign trail by night and in court by day,” said Linda Petrou, 76, a retired college professor. Greensboro over the weekend.
“I don’t know” how Trump’s legal problems will play out in the general election, Pedro said as delegates met in the food court of the hotel and convention complex off I-40. He said that while he was optimistic about Trump’s chances, “it could really hurt him with the independents.”
“It’s more of a movement than a person,” Pedro said.
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‘state of anger’
Trump, long accused in a hush-money case in New York state and facing two more trials, made a personal plea in his North Carolina convention speech on Saturday night. Trump, often controversial, told deputies that many of the investigations into him also targeted his political movement.
“This brutal harassment is a travesty of justice,” Trump said.
The twice-impeached president has found a receptive audience, many who say they are even more devoted to him.
“I think it cemented his support in the Republican Party,” said Ed Broyhill, 69, a businessman and Republican National Committeeman for the state of North Carolina. “It created a furor I’ve never seen before.”
Meanwhile, independent and nonpartisan voters will have to watch and see how the situation develops, Broyhill said: “It’s going to define politics for the next year.”
Let it play
Kathy Benson, 65, a substitute teacher from Wilmington, North Carolina, praised Trump’s speech and said she “wants to pick up where he left off.”
But how will independents and moderates view his legal troubles?
“We have to let it play out,” Benson said. “Each man and woman must decide for themselves.”
Trump supporters say they identify with him because they believe he is being hunted by the “deep state” and the administration of President Joe Biden, his prospective Democratic opponent in 2024. They said voters would dismiss cases against Trump if they perceived him as unfair. .
“It will hurt him with some voters, but I don’t think it will hurt him,” said Nicholas Jaroszinski, 37, a business owner from Trudman, North Carolina, who wore a T-shirt that read: “We are not cooperating with the government.
‘Between Us and Them’
The North Carolina Republican Convention was in Trump country.
Delegates and other party members thronged the marble hallways of the convention center and argued over their own election for state party chairman.
At the fairgrounds, Republicans were stationed at tables with staff from local campaigns and political organizations, from Americans for Prosperity to Moms Freedom.
They also browsed souvenir stands with Trump-themed buttons, hats, jewelry and T-shirts. “MAGA Mall” offered a T-shirt with a screenshot of Trump entering a courthouse in New York City after his first indictment.
“He stands between us and them,” said the shirt.
Several North Carolina Republicans echoed that theme, saying the charges were successful work from a legal system that has targeted Trump for years while defending Democrats like Biden and Hillary Clinton.
“Republicans see that he’s really the man for the job and the hour,” said Leah Carson, 47, a wedding photographer from the state capital, Raleigh.
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North Carolina Republicans had good things to say about other 2024 candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, who both spoke at the state convention. But many said they were sticking with Trump as he faced legal attack.
The latest indictment alleges that Trump improperly took classified documents from the White House and illegally obstructed the government’s efforts to obtain national security information.
This is the first federal indictment of a former president. In late March, Trump was indicted in New York state court on charges of falsifying business records to cover up payments to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.
Trump is under investigation for the January 6, 2021 insurrection and attempts to overturn his 2020 loss in Georgia. Both could lead to more allegations that could further change the shape of the 2024 elections.
Michelle Morrow, 52, a nurse from Cary, North Carolina, said the impeachment would “make me fight harder” for Trump in 2024. He did not know how the electorate would react in the general election.
“Anything can hurt him,” she said. “They’ve been trying to hurt him since he ran in 2015.”
National party leaders rallied around Trump, as did many Republicans gathered at the Coory Convention Center in Greensboro.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the GOP congressional majority will scrutinize the conduct of the Trump hearings because “Biden’s weaponization of the federal government will destabilize our nation.”
In their remarks at the North Carolina convention, DeSantis and Pence used the disarmament argument, and generally supported Trump’s impeachment.
Other Republicans across the country say they are troubled by Trump’s behavior and that the party should think twice before nominating him again.
“Is this the kind of behavior we want from someone who wants to be president of the United States?” tweeted former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who recently entered the 2024 race. “We need to focus on behavior. Behavior is bad.”
Bill Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, told Fox News Sunday that the government has a legitimate interest in retrieving “very sensitive” national security documents that the former president has no right to keep.
“If even half of that is true, he’s toast,” Barr said. “I mean, it’s a very broad allegation, it’s very bad.” “To scapegoat Trump here — as a victim of a ‘witch hunt’ — is ridiculous,” he added.
Some Republicans in North Carolina wondered if Trump’s legal troubles would change many minds.
“If you don’t like Trump, nothing is going to win you over,” said Ginny Forestieri, 72, a retired real estate broker from Dobson, North Carolina.
The final answers will come from voters who are neither pro-Trump nor anti-Trump, but somewhere in between.
This will be especially true in the general election in North Carolina, a closely divided state that Trump carried in both 2016 and 2020. Biden and the Democrats have a major goal of flipping in 2024.
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It’s hard to see how any Republican can win the presidency without winning North Carolina, and Trump’s legal woes are already weighing him down in the Tar Heel state.
Paul Shumaker, a North Carolina-based Republican political consultant, said Trump’s legal troubles after the Jan. 6, 2021 rally have been a problem with independent voters.
“After Jan. 6, unaffiliated voters continued to squeeze him,” Schumacher said. “The allegations are certainly not going to help him improve his standing with unconnected voters.”
There are also many distractions on the horizon. At least preparing for the tests will cut into Trump’s campaign time. It could also affect how he campaigns, as some of his more extreme views about the allegations against him could become issues at trial.
“It’s going to diminish his ability to be himself,” Shumaker said. “Whatever he says on the campaign trail will be used against him in court.”