Trump’s verdict inflames the Republican Party while the GOP worries about undecided voters

For former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters in Pennsylvania, Thursday conviction does little to change their faith.

If anything, it motivates them.

“I feel exactly the same way I did when the charges were brought against him. This is a witch hunt,” said Dominic Chickilly, 33, a Trump supporter from Schuylkill County. “They’re doing everything they can to stop him, and that makes me even more excited.”

That energy was already evident Friday in Doylestown, home to the Bucks County GOP office.

“Just a minute ago, a couple came into the office and asked how they could help,” said Pat Poprik, chairman of the county’s Republican committee. “‘What can we do?’ they asked. “This verdict could ruin our country.”

Poprik concluded: “If you politicize the courts, you will create a travesty of justice and cause many people to get off their couches to help.”

Now all eyes are on how the verdict motivates — or erodes — support for Trump in places like purple Bucks County, one of the booming counties that will be crucial to a November victory in Pennsylvania. President Joe Biden won Bucks in 2020, but the county voted against Republicans this year. Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016, but only by about 4,000 votes over Trump.

One conviction later, Republicans fear Trump’s conviction could backfire on them in Bellwether County and others like it.

“We’re going to do everything we can to go out into the community and let people know they need to focus on Trump’s policies,” said Tom Eddy, Erie County GOP chairman. Erie County is one of three swing counties in Pennsylvania that voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 and then Trump in 2016. Biden won it in 2020, but it remains a key battleground.

“For the next five months, all you’ll hear is, ‘He’s a criminal,’” Eddy said. “Democrats have done a pretty good job of trying to demonize Trump. Now we have to talk to people and say, “Don’t listen, look what he did.”

In 2020, Biden won Pennsylvania by just over one percentage point. In 2016, Trump won by just under a percentage point. Most polls in the state, which could be crucial to choosing the next president, show Trump with a slight lead.

So far, the footprints of the two campaigns are drastically different. Biden has secured 24 field offices across the state, with the greatest concentration in Philadelphia and the suburbs. Trump traveled significantly less, in part because of the trial, for which he was required to report four days a week.

But his campaign is already ramping up its efforts in the state, according to RNC officials, announcing that the campaign’s first office will open in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

As the campaign progresses, Rep. Dan Meuser, a Republican who represents part of northeastern Pennsylvania and co-chair of the Trump campaign, said he plans to continue talking about the issues – the border, the economy and crime. Meuser attended the opening of a campaign office in Wilkes Barre this week and said several offices will open across the state in the coming weeks. “We try to keep overhead low and efficiency high,” he said.

Fundraising blunder

The former president boasted Friday that the conviction had prompted a surge in fundraising — needed cash in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania as well as to cover legal costs.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement Friday that more than 485,000 donors have given $34.8 million since the verdict was announced last night in a “show trial” in New York.

He added: “The American people stand behind President Trump in the face of an unprecedented weaponization of the judicial system, and we are focused on investing these resources to ensure the outcome of the vote, protect the ballot and re-elect President Donald J. Trump. “

According to Arnaud Armstrong, executive director of Win Again PAC, Trump’s Thursday finding of 34 counts of first-degree falsification of business documents will not only bring in revenue – but will inspire voters to come to the polls. a Pennsylvania group working to convince Republicans to vote by mail.

“In an environment where turnout is extremely important, I see the verdict being a big asset for the Republican Party,” Armstrong said. “It confirms all the worst fears and the most serious fears about leftist ideology creeping into our institutions, such as the courts.

“Republicans are most engaged when they see gross injustice. This happened with [Supreme Court Justice] Brett Kavanaugh when he was attacked during his confirmation hearing [in September 2018.] People were really upset and in 2018 it won the election for many Republicans who otherwise would have lost.

“Well, Trump’s verdict is: Kavanaugh on steroids. The verdict kicks out a hornet’s nest and will significantly increase activism.”

Trump’s belief tells Republicans that personal freedom is at stake, said Jackie Kulback, Cambria County GOP committee chairwoman.

“If they can do this to a former president,” she said, “what’s to stop them from attacking an ordinary citizen?”

There is no evidence that Americans’ liberties are at risk after a jury found Trump guilty of trying to illegally influence the 2016 election by giving a secret payment to a porn actor. There is also no evidence – as Trump himself has stated – that the Biden administration arranged Trump’s impeachment to lend a hand the president get re-elected.

Biden himself spoke out against the Republican response to Friday’s verdict.

“It is irresponsible for anyone to say this is rigged just because they don’t like the verdict,” he said, speaking at the White House. “Donald Trump had every opportunity to defend himself. It was a state, not federal, case and was tried by a jury of 12 citizens, including 12 Americans. Twelve people like you.

“Left Wing Conspiracy”

Already, conservative media are using the verdict to help the Republican Party discount the jury’s findings, said Matt Jordan, director of the Literacy Initiative at Pennsylvania State University, which helps students and citizens distinguish “sound journalism” from “the noise that often overwhelms and divides us,” according to its website.

The idea is to fuel the theory that there is “a huge cult of leftist conspiracy that is trying to victimize Trump,” and by extension all Republicans, Jordan said.

“This is disinformation showing that any attack on a party leader is a sign that the entire criminal justice system in America is corrupt,” he added. “Everything is fake.”

Trump himself underscored the point, stating on Thursday that the trial was a “disgrace.”

Al Smith, 67, a carpenter from Nazareth, agreed in an interview Friday.

“At first I was numb when I heard the verdict. Then I thought, “This is not how justice is served.” So I gathered my strength to help Trump. And I will remain so.”

Staff writer Nick Vadala contributed to this article.

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