Trump verdict may have effect on upcoming election, NC voters

Saturday, June 1, 2024
Trump verdict may have impacts on upcoming election, NC voters
With another tight election looming, the focus now turns to what's next

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Political and legal experts in the Triangle agreed about the historic nature of the verdict delivered Thursday to former President Donald Trump -- found guilty on all 34 charges he faced for falsifying business records.

Virtually no one is certain quite yet which way the verdict will tip the scales in a political climate that is more polarized than ever.

"I think until today happened everything's been hypothetical. And so what we've got now is a real situation," said David McLennan, Political Science Professor at Meredith College in Raleigh.

McLennan said we'll need to wait until more polling comes out post-verdict, but he believes Trump loyalists will remain loyal.

"North Carolina, I would have said he was the favorite going into the 2024 election," he said. "I'm still not willing to say he's not because again, we have polarization and some people just don't care."

NC is a state Trump carried in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

In 2020, just fewer than 75,000 votes separated Donald Trump and Joe Biden in North Carolina. Right now, the polls suggest another close race in November.

With another tight election looming, the focus now turns to what's next. Trump is scheduled for sentencing on July 11, just days before the start of the Republican National Convention.

"Donald Trump is a first-time convicted felon. And the judge will take that into consideration," said Irving Joyner, a longtime law professor at North Carolina Central University.

ALSO SEE: How Trump's guilty verdict could affect the 2024 presidential election

He said there are still several different options at the judge's disposal for sentencing.

"He can suspend a sentence placed Trump on probation, or he can impose an active sentence depending upon the severity of this conduct in his eyesight," Joyner said.

RELATED: North Carolina politicians react to Former President Trump's guilty verdict in historic trial

Local political leaders are also responding to the verdict. In response to ABC11's request for comment, the North Carolina Democratic Party shared a statement from the Biden-Harris campaign.

"In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law," the statement reads in part. "Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain. But today's verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality. There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box."

The NC Democratic Party wasn't available to speak Friday, but Wake County's Republican Party Chair called the verdict "scary".

In 2020, just fewer than 75,000 votes separated Donald Trump and Joe Biden in North Carolina. Right now, the polls suggest another close race in November.

"I think the American people value the justice system, and this worries them," said Steve Bergstrom, head of the Wake County GOP.

He said the verdict won't change the GOP plans locally come November.

"The system of justice that we have in America has been the standard across the world for so many years now. And that's in jeopardy now. So I think it's gonna motivate people to go out and fight for the principles we hold dear," Bergstrom said.

The verdict may also hold major financial implications for both candidates. Just moments after the guilty verdict was delivered, a new fundraiser launched on the Trump campaign website in direct response to the decision.

Trump was quick to claim his 34 felony guilty verdicts were politically motivated, part of what he called a rigged trial.

Bergstrom said he believes voters will see things the same way, and sticking up for Trump will drive turnout to the polls.

"Everything that we're seeing is that this is bad for the country. And my inkling is that this is only going to help in the polls for President Trump," Bergstrom said.

McLennan said it's important to Democrats to figure out how to frame the decision to strike a clear contrast with Trump.

ABC11 discusses the Trump case and ramifications with Mack McCorkle, a Duke professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy. "The Biden campaign has been given a big weapon now against Trump."

"I think they've got to talk about the importance of a fair judicial system. And they'll talk about how this is the example of a fair judicial system. And they'll talk about Trump being unfit for office," McLennan said.

It's an argument that could potentially sway unaffiliated voters, who are now the largest group of voters in North Carolina and will likely hold the keys to a close election.

"It's those folks, those independent voters who still believe in the criminal justice system in the United States and that it's fair. And no matter what your former title was, you still get a fair trial. It's those people that could switch and become Biden voters," McLennan said.

It could take a few months for the public to digest the news and see how they feel about it to see any effect on the polls.

In the meantime, the Trump campaign said Friday that it had raised a record-setting small-dollar fundraising haul of $34.8 million after the verdict - nearly double the previous biggest day ever recorded for the Trump campaign.