In the heat of last year’s New Hampshire GOP U.S. Senate primary, the top Senate Democrat spent millions promoting far-right Republican Don Bolduc’s bid to win the nomination over a more moderate calendar.
In Michigan, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “rewarded” Rep. Peter Meijer for being one of just 10 GOP members of the House to vote for President Donald Trump’s impeachment after the January 6 riot by running TV ads promoting his opponent, MAGA Republican John Gibbs.
It worked. Bolduc and Gibbs won their primaries, then went on to lose badly in November. They were part of a national Democratic effort from Pennsylvania to Illinois to help weak Republican candidates become their party’s nominees.
Now, some Republicans say Democrats are doing the same thing in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. They believe Trump is the one Republican who will lose to President Biden, and the decision by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to charge the former president in a legally questionable case is part of that effort.
Even some Democrats have acknowledged that Bragg’s case is a stretch that federal prosecutors looked at seven years ago and declined to take up. It is particularly weak for the first-ever criminal case brought against a former president. The fact that he is also the front-runner for his party’s nomination raises the stakes even higher. And the weakness of the case is even more troubling.
As a result, “It could very well be that it helps President Trump in a Republican primary,” former senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Monday. Toomey, an outspoken Trump critic inside the GOP, said if Bragg chooses to arrest Trump on such shaky charges, “It will underscore views that many people have about the political nature of prosecutions, and prosecuting Donald Trump in particular. If that were the case, it would help Donald Trump reach the finish line first in the Republican primary.
“Interestingly,” Toomey added, “that would presumably serve President Biden’s interest very well because I do think Donald Trump is the most beatable Republican in the general election.”
Toomey isn’t alone. Discussing whether Bragg’s prosecution might be a Democratic attempt to help Trump lock down his base and become the nominee has been swirling through GOP circles for days.
Kimberly Strassel, who writes about politics for The Wall Street Journal, also sees an arrest as a way to motivate Trump’s supporters and “others in the Republican Party” to rally around the candidate over his unfair treatment. “That’s what Democrats are hoping for. They’d like to push him over some of the other candidates because they believe that if they can get him back on the ballot again in 2024, he’s the best shot of their beating a (GOP) opponent.
“Oh, and by the way, if Joe Biden’s the nominee, he’s already done it once.”
Veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum calls that thinking “absurd.” He said there is no Democratic Party campaign/criminal justice collusion. It’s just a politician who broke the law.
“Democrats aren’t coordinating this effort. There’s a D.A. in New York and a D.A. in Atlanta and a special counsel in the Department of Justice. This isn’t a political strategy,” Shrum said. “I understand why Toomey would say that. He’s pretty anti-Trump, and he wants to create the impression that Democrats want Trump to win.”
Is he right?
“I don’t want to run against Trump, because he might win,” Shrum said. “The problem with this ‘help Trump win’ strategy — and smart people know this — is that Hillary Clinton was rooting for Trump in 2016. If you think he’s not good for the country, you don’t want him to be the nominee.”
So, why is Alvin Bragg willing to go out on such a weak legal limb to make the first-ever arrest of a former president, if not politics? And why wouldn’t the same Democratic Party that spent nearly $50 million successfully influencing Republican primaries last year want to play in the GOP race next year?
Even comedians think arresting Trump is playing into the former president’s hands.
“Are you guys really going to arrest Trump?” Chris Rock asked the crowd at a Kennedy Center event in Washington on Sunday night. “You do know this is only going to make him more popular. It’s like arresting Tupac. He’s just gonna sell more records. Are you stupid?”
Corey Lewandowski was Trump’s campaign manager in 2016 but is currently unaffiliated in the 2024 primary. Asked about the current state of the GOP race, he said, “I do believe Trump can win the primary.”
Asked if he believes Democrats want Trump to win, Lewandowsky replied, “I do.”