The unstoppable Mr. Trump

Donald Trump has also clearly won the primaries in New Hampshire.

Bernd Weidensteiner, Dr Christoph Balz

Commerzbank Economic Research

January 24 2024

The remaining rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Nikki Haley, has therefore probably missed her last chance. Trump's opponents must now hope for the courts – or for an as yet unforeseeable swing of the approval rate in favor of President Biden.

The ship has sailed for other candidates

Donald Trump clearly won yesterday's Republican primaries in New Hampshire. According to the Wall Street Journal, he received 55% of the votes after almost all ballots had been counted, while his rival Nikki Haley only received 43%. Haley has therefore missed her best chance to challenge Trump for the Republican presidential nomination after all. Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, had already withdrawn his candidacy at the weekend and thrown his support behind Donald Trump.

After two primaries so far, Trump has only secured 31 of the approximately 2,400 delegates who will officially nominate the Republican Party's presidential candidate at the party convention in July. However, Haley has staked everything on turning the mood in her favor with a victory in New Hampshire. This has not been successful and there is therefore little to suggest that she will be able to reduce the wide lead that Trump has in the polls. Even before New Hampshire, the political betting markets gave Trump an 85% probability of winning the nomination, compared to just under 9% for Haley.

If nothing else comes up, Donald Trump will therefore probably be the Republican candidate for the presidential election on November 5. What else could prevent his election as the next US president?

Trump's trials

There are numerous ongoing court cases against Donald Trump that could slow him down during the election campaign. It is difficult to say whether that could really stop his Presidential ambitions. We are not legal experts and there are different legal opinions on most of the relevant points in any case. However, we can summarize the situation:

  • Proceedings are underway in many states to ban Trump from the ballot on the grounds that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits those "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" from holding political office. This refers to Trump's role in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. This was the view of the Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine Chief Electoral Officer, who excluded him from the respective Republican Party primaries. Others, however, doubt that these points and some other requirements in the legal fine print have been met. Ultimately, the national Supreme Court will have to decide, and it seems less likely that it will restrict the choice of candidates.
  • There are also several criminal proceedings against Donald Trump, including allegations of attempted election interference in Georgia. However, it remains to be seen whether a verdict will be reached in these proceedings before the election. A twelve-member jury will also decide in each case. Trump would only be convicted if the jury decided unanimously against him.
  • However, a conviction would probably not prevent him from taking office. Some even believe that he could even end up pardoning himself once he is in office, at least in the proceedings for possible violations of federal law. Whether this is really permissible would probably ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
  • Since the charges so far have had little impact on the election polls, it remains to be seen to what extent a conviction would actually cost Trump votes.

The Supreme Court will probably have the final say. It will probably prefer to leave the decision on the next president to the voters, unless there are serious reasons not to do so. The experience of the 2000 presidential election will certainly play a role here. The Supreme Court was directly involved in the presidential election and came under heavy criticism afterwards.

The point of contention was the difficulties in counting the votes in Florida. The presidential candidates were neck and neck after the other states had been counted, so the election result in Florida was decisive. The count there was dragged out by numerous mishaps and legal trench warfare, and the outcome of the election remained open for a long time. On December 12, the Supreme Court finally ordered an end to the recount of votes, five weeks after the presidential election. George W. Bush was narrowly ahead of Al Gore, and the court decision sealed Bush's victory.