The Mar-a-Lago raid's potential effect on the midterms

·4 min read
Voters.
Voters. Illustrated | Getty Images

Last week, the FBI raided the Florida mansion of former president Donald Trump, whom the agency is investigating for potential violation of the Espionage Act and two other criminal statutes. The unprecedented search has set off an enduring political firestorm, directed in large part at the Department of Justice but also toward law enforcement in general.

Now, with November right around the corner, the news cycle-dominating saga begs the question: How might the controversial raid on Mar-a-Lago affect the upcoming midterm elections, if at all?

Trump might share his 2024 plans sooner now

At this point, most commentators believe that Trump is running for president in 2024 — the only thing missing is a formal announcement. But perhaps the FBI raid will motivate Trump to declare his impending White House plans before the midterm elections, rather than after, as some in his party would prefer.

"I think that this is something that could possibly motivate Trump to announce a presidency even before the 2022 midterm elections," Fox News' Carley Shimkus told Greg Gutfeld during a panel discussion last week. Trump "thrives during controversy," Shimkus continued, "and he also represents people who feel targeted by the establishment." Politically, the Mar-a-Lago raid fits "into his wheelhouse perfectly."

Impact is not a guarantee

The raid has dominated the news cycle, sure, but that shouldn't impact November, James Pindell wrote in an analysis for The Boston Globe. "[T]here is no evidence that this raid will cause independents to suddenly sour on Trump (they already have) or that Democrats will get more fired up (the Jan. 6 committee probe and Supreme Court abortion ruling will have more impact), or that Republicans will be more motivated to vote (polls say that they are already more motivated than Democrats)," he wrote.

And yes, perhaps prospective midterms candidates will be asked to discuss their opinions on the saga, but any such statements already issued "show the same partisan pattern as anything stirred up by the Jan. 6 committee all summer," Pindell added.

Veteran Democratic political strategist James Carville was in relative agreement with Pindell, having recently told Fox News Digital that it was too early in the investigation to predict how or if the raid would affect voters come November. "We don't know because we have to find out more facts," Carville said.

The raid (unfortunately) shifts the focus to Trump

Republicans have, until now, "been blessed with campaign gold," David Drucker wrote for The Washington Examiner: More specifically, inflation is up, and Democrats are shouldering the blame. But unfortunately for the GOP, the fallout from the raid "promises to keep a focus on Trump" rather than on the issues Republicans actually hope to use against Democrats, Mark Niquette posited in Bloomberg.

"This muddles the Republican message and gives Democrats another thing to push back on so they're not talking about the issues they don't want to talk about," Republican strategist Doug Heye told Niquette.

Drucker took a somewhat similar approach in his piece for the Examiner; though he's skeptical the raid itself will drastically alter the midterm landscape, he worries a messaging shift away from inflation could ultimately prove detrimental to the GOP's chances.

"If Republicans veer right and abandon inflation for Trump the persecuted, their critical advantage with independents could shrink, in some cases enough to cost them dearly," Drucker mused. "Maybe the GOP still wins majorities, but not governing majorities."

The raid will energize Republican voters

Despite aforementioned speculation predicting otherwise, some pundits and commentators believe the raid will nonetheless serve to galvanize the GOP base ahead of the November elections. David Catron, for instance, estimates that the "unprecedented" search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago mansion "will likely energize GOP voters and drown any increase in Democratic enthusiasm beneath a red tsunami," he wrote for The American Spectator.

The justifications for the raid give "off the same stench" as the impeachment-era Russia scandal, Catron went on, and for most Republicans and independents, "goofy stories in the media about nuclear secrets and espionage read like just another chapter in the ongoing Get Trump saga." To that end, Merrick Garland "and his FBI goons may well be responsible for transforming a moderately good Republican turnout into a Mar-a-Lago wave."

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