Donald Trump was the frontrunner to be the Republican Party nominee for the 2024 presidential race before news of his pending arrest became public – and that fact is unchanged even now he is officially a criminal defendant.

The earliest date for any trial in this case would be January 2024, which coincides with the start of the Republican primaries campaigning period, right before people in Iowa and New Hampshire cast their ballot.

There is the serious and breathtaking possibility that Trump may be sitting in the court dock as voters choose which candidate they want to run for the White House.

But polling suggests that is unlikely to be a factor in which way they swing.

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What charges is Trump facing?

Since last week, when it was announced he would face charges, his 8% lead over his closest Republican rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has surged to 26%, according to a YouGov survey.

Even allowing for the fact that this might be a temporary boost because he is so prominent in the news, the possibility of DeSantis overtaking Trump, while not impossible, is unlikely.

“DeSantis remains the primary contender but he’s in a very difficult position,” Ryan Williams, a Republican Party strategist tells me.

More on Donald Trump

“He really can’t talk about himself right now or his agenda in Florida or how he would be as a candidate because he has to be talking about Donald Trump at the moment – everybody does.

“He has to side with him, too, which is unique. Usually, when you’re running against somebody, you criticise them when they find themselves in the centre of a scandal like Donald Trump is.”

That is not the case here.

DeSantis and every other potential Republican party candidate has to rally behind Trump or they risk drawing the ire of the party base that dominates primaries and caucuses during the nomination process.

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This is Trump as we’ve never seen him before

A glossary of terms in the Trump case
The ‘small town girl’ involved in the Trump hush money case

‘It just seems like a ploy’

A trip to Rafiki Tiki Bar in Riviera Beach, Florida, reveals that Trump loyalists are unlikely to have their minds changed by his legal woes.

“It just seems like a ploy by the Democratic Party trying to make sure that he’s not able to run in the next upcoming election,” says Bryan Berfio.

“If he’s up against Biden next time I’d definitely vote for him.”

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But sitting just a couple of tables away are a group of friends from Tennessee with wildly different political views to Bryan.

“I think it’s embarrassing that a former president is in court but at least it shows nobody is above the law,” says Amanda Edens.

She adds: “I was in high school when George W Bush was elected and I remember thinking, ‘oh, this is terrible, we don’t want someone this conservative in office’.

“I am now longing for the days of a Bush Jr, Bush Sr, Reagan-esque country.”

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