“It’s all about the timing, isn’t it,” said podcaster Megyn Kelly, considering an unlikely — but possible — scenario wherein former President Donald Trump is convicted on any number of his 91 criminal charges prior to the 2024 election.
“He could be sitting in jail on election day. He could still win.”
Kelly’s July 18 remark to Newsmax host Eric Bolling points to a trend in right-wing media. While her comments were relatively tepid, some of Trump's more fervent supporters are now proclaiming not only that he could still win reelection from jail or prison, but that his incarceration would even “make people vote more for Donald Trump.”
The performative declarations of support also increase the pressure on Trump’s primary opponents to show their loyalty to the man they are, at least nominally, trying to defeat and whom they also cannot criticize.
Also appearing on Newsmax’s Eric Bolling The Balance, failed gubernatorial candidate and election denier Kari Lake was more direct, promising there would be “hell to pay for decades of corruption” once Trump returns to the White House, claiming there are “hundreds of millions of people who are looking forward to that day and will vote for President Trump, no matter what they do.”
“No matter if they put him behind bars, no matter if they shackle him,” Lake professed, “they will vote for President Trump, and I’m one of them.”
Lake also took the opportunity to criticize two of right-wing media’s favorite targets among Trump’s primary opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence. “Where is the Ron DeSantis that President Trump helped create his political career,” Lake asked, before answering, “He’s standing there with a knife out, stabbing it in the back of President Trump.”
On Pence, Lake lamented that he “could have done something on January 6 to alleviate the pain of America” and help Trump steal the 2020 election, but said that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do the right thing,” and had resorted to “badmouthing” Trump.
On an earlier appearance with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Lake made similar points. “When it comes to Donald Trump, I don’t care if he’s in jail with shackles on,” she promised the War Room audience. She went on, “I will proudly head to the polls and enthusiastically vote for Donald J. Trump, because he’s the only guy who can fix this sham of a system,” referring to long-debunked lies about 2020 vote counting in Georgia.
“We’re separating the politicians who truly love America from those who are simply swamp creature bastards.”
Lake pointed to what she saw as the end of DeSantis’ candidacy, arguing, “The minute Ron DeSantis said that he believes Joe Biden legitimately won that election, I mean, he just became the laughingstock.”
“I know that one of Ron’s big supporters is one of the big Dominion folks over there,” she continued, speculating about DeSantis’ connections to an attorney who works for the law firm representing Dominion Voting Systems, “and maybe he’s got to bow down to stolen elections and act like they’re legit.”
Lake is not the only pro-Trump voice expressing such confidence that jail time will help him win back the presidency. “I still think that Americans are still going to vote for Trump,” said Newsmax host Dick Morris, “And even if he has to campaign from jail, I think he’s going to get a majority of the American people.” (Show host Greg Kelly was not as enthusiastic about the prospect, preferring instead to delay the trials.)
Serial plagiarist and right-wing podcaster Benny Johnson, in the middle of a rant about President Joe Biden supposedly hating his children, offered stilted commentary on the idea of Trump winning votes from prison: “Donald Trump may well — may be running for presidency from a jail cell. We don’t know. We don’t know. I think that would actually, potentially make people vote more for Donald Trump.”
As Trump’s criminal cases move forward, the financial and logistical stakes for his campaign will increase, and so too will pro-Trump media’s desperation to cast the prosecutions as a strength for Trump and a weakness for his opponents. And in the Republican primary at least, thanks to a barrage of election lies from right-wing media and the former president himself, they may have a point.
“Ron DeSantis is not electable,” Lake told Bannon. Echoing Bannon’s own commentary from last week, she said, “There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that he can beat any Democrat, and here’s why.”
“Do you think for one minute the entirety of the MAGA world will go over and vote for Ron DeSantis?” Lake asked, “A guy who stabbed Donald Trump in the back? A guy who is lying and saying he believes Joe Biden legitimately won?”
“These people aren’t going to vote for Ron DeSantis under any circumstance.”