Hunter Biden conviction likely to have muted impact on election: Experts

"I don't think the verdict will materially impact the race," a Republican said.

ByTal Axelrod ABCNews logo
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Hunter Biden found guilty on all 3 counts in federal gun trial
Jim Dolan has more on the guilty verdicts handed down to Hunter Biden.

WILMINGTON, Delaware -- Hunter Biden's conviction Tuesday on three felony charges marks a historic moment -- the first time a sitting president's child has been found guilty of felonies. The verdict's impact on the presidential race, however, may not match that moment.

Operatives in both parties predicted that the conviction would do little to move the needle in an election featuring two universally known candidates whose own poll numbers have refused to budge more than a few points even in light of historic developments surrounding President Joe Biden and Donald Trump themselves -- including the former president's own felony conviction last month.

"Considering how little the Trump verdict seemed to move the needle, I'm not sure Hunter's will do anything either," GOP pollster Robert Blizzard said of Hunter Biden's conviction on three charges related to the purchase of a firearm while he was allegedly addicted to crack cocaine.

SEE ALSO: Hunter Biden juror calls trial 'waste of taxpayers' dollars,' says texts were key evidence

Hunter Biden, the president's only living son, has been a target of Republican politics for years, with the GOP insisting he looped his father into years of his business dealings -- claims the White House has repeatedly denied.

Joe Biden and Democrats, for their part, have sought to cast Republican talking points as conspiracy theories while the administration has emphasized the president's support for his son and his recovery from addiction.

The messaging on each side is not anticipated to stop anytime soon, especially in a cycle where Republicans' claims of a "rigged" justice system are a mainstay of today's campaign rhetoric.

However, it's unclear how much Hunter Biden's conviction moves the race forward rather than keeps it where it is.

"I don't think the verdict will materially impact the race," said Republican strategist Rob Stutzman. "It does mute GOP claims that the Biden DOJ is weaponized against Trump and MAGA, but the election isn't turning on that question."

To be certain, Republicans still seized on the verdict as a bad look for the president that could impede his messaging.

SEE ALSO: Biden shows support for son Hunter after conviction, says he will respect verdict

Dave Carney, a veteran GOP strategist recently tapped to lead a new pro-Trump super PAC, said the ruling could have "some" impact on the race but also cut into new attacks from the Biden campaign against Trump's convictions.

"It takes the 'convicted felon' issue off the table for Biden. Their toolbox is looking bleaker," he said, referencing a newly common phrase in statements from the president's camp.

Others touted vindication on Hunter Biden's infamous laptop, a device introduced into evidence that was allegedly left with a Wilmington, Delaware, computer repairman. Republicans had claimed the computer included personal details, while Democrats dismissed that messaging as a conspiracy theory - an assertion that GOP strategist Scott Jennings said could rub voters the wrong way after the laptop was essentially validated by being introduced as evidence.

"I do think Biden's ability to recover is going to be based somewhat on whether people find him to be credible," he added. "Do they think he's telling them the truth? Do they believe it when he says things to them about himself or about Donald Trump? And now, one of the problems is they know full well he lied right to their face about this laptop."

Democrats swatted away any claims that voters would negatively link the president to Tuesday's verdict.

While Republicans have been railing against Hunter Biden's business dealings for years, strategists estimated that undecided voters would not be swayed by the conviction amid concerns over other issues, including Trump's own legal hurdles.

"I don't think Hunter Biden matters to folks much at all except for extreme Trumpers who will say 'see!' But their candidate got convicted, not one of his kids. That's a voting issue. The Trump verdict I think could force some lean conservative people to stay home. No poll can measure that. No one is staying home because of Hunter," said Democratic strategist Peter Giangreco, who worked on former President Barack Obama's campaigns.

Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said "voters know that there's only one candidate for president who thinks he's above the law and is convicted of 34 felonies for fraud."

Hunter Biden's conviction also echoes struggles of millions of families across the country who have a loved one battling addiction, with Democrats suggesting the verdict may be both difficult to attack on the trail and relatable to everyday Americans.

"On one hand, it reminds us that President Biden's lived experience is more like the majority of Americans than Trump's. Millions of American families deal with addiction, the impact of addiction and the journey of recovery," said Democratic strategist Karen Finney, a veteran of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Biden fundraiser John Morgan said "only a person with no heart would not be sympathetic" to the story of addiction and recovery.

"And (Biden) isn't saying the trial is rigged. The contrast between the two trials will be a huge boost for the president," Morgan added.

Joe Biden for his part largely sought to avoid any political commentary on the verdict, releasing a personal statement only from the White House and not from his campaign.

"As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery. As I also said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal," the president said in a statement.