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Trump in the Middle

by nytime
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There was a time, not all that long ago, when being indicted was bad for a politician’s career. That time is over — at least for Donald Trump.

The outrageous statements and chaos that defined his candidacy and time in office did little to dent his popularity within the Republican Party. Now, his fourth indictment is testing that support again. Can a candidate facing 91 criminal counts, including charges that he sought to subvert democracy by trying to overturn an election, win his party’s nomination for the presidency?

So far, the answer seems to be yes. Not only are Trump’s indictments far from disqualifying for large parts of the Republican base — he holds a decisive polling lead across nearly every ideological wing and demographic group in the party — but they are ensuring that the contest revolves around him.

At the Iowa State Fair last weekend, Republican voters packed every stop Trump made. The crowds were so large that they made it difficult to walk through the fairgrounds during the hour he was there. He effectively stole the spotlight from Ron DeSantis, his chief rival in the race, who was scheduled to visit the fair at the same time.

Two days later, Trump dominated the news again with the spectacle of his fourth indictment. This time, the setting was Georgia, where Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, charged Trump with trying to reverse the state’s 2020 election results. As with his other indictments, Trump’s rivals were asked their view of the charges, further establishing him as the center of the Republican world.

And there’s little sign that the Trump show is ending soon. He plans to hold a news conference on Monday at his club in New Jersey. He has until next Friday to voluntarily surrender to the Georgia authorities, an appearance that will bring another wave of news media coverage.

In between, on Wednesday, at least eight other Republican candidates are meeting in Milwaukee for the first debate of the race. Normally, the face-off would prompt weeks of speculation over tactics, attack lines and debate skills. But this year, the only thing people seem to be talking about is whether Trump will attend.

Many of his advisers are telling him to skip the event, saying he has nothing to gain by being on a stage with opponents that he leads by double digits. Trump has not ruled out making an appearance, but, even if he follows his team’s advice and stays home, the debate is likely to be defined by his absence.

We can’t know how this will end. Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges, never mind the first major party candidate to run with a lengthy rap sheet. Some strategists supporting his rivals argue that the charges are already having an effect, noting that his poll numbers in Iowa and his favorability ratings have dipped. Their assessments could eventually be proved correct. Or, they could be just the latest round of wishful thinking by anti-Trump Republicans.

The country is headed into an extraordinary political season. Voters are likely to be evaluating a major party nominee who is bouncing between the campaign trail and criminal trials. And if Trump wins the 2024 election, there’s the possibility that Americans will watch their president spend part of his term in a courtroom.

  • People sentenced to life in prison as teenagers are making the case for their release. Read their stories.

  • X, formerly known as Twitter, slowed access to certain websites, including The Times, Substack and Facebook. It reversed some of the changes yesterday.

Europe’s response to migration has normalized mass death, Sally Hayden writes.

Here are columns by Jamelle Bouie on abortion and surveillance and by Thomas Friedman on Israel.

Ageless or airbrushed? Vogue’s latest cover, with ’90s supermodels, started a conversation about beauty standards online.

A regular: Becoming a familiar face at a neighborhood shop made one woman less lonely.

Ultraviolet rays: Can there be a safe suntan?

More fees: Restaurant owners are charging extra for using a credit card.

Lives Lived: Joann Meyer spent nearly 60 years at The Marion County Record in Kansas. On Friday, the police searched its offices and her home. She died a day later — while she was asking how such a thing could have happened, her son said. She was 98.

Semifinal: Australia, a tournament host, is playing England for the remaining spot in the final as we send this.

Criticism: Carli Lloyd defended her inflammatory comments about the U.S. team during its World Cup run.

High scoring: Once rare, 40-point games are surging in the W.N.B.A.

Dominance: The New York Liberty claimed the Commissioner’s Cup with a blowout win over the Las Vegas Aces.

A new star? The Colts named the rookie Anthony Richardson as their starting quarterback yesterday, increasing the pressure on a player already under intense scrutiny.

Alex Collins: The 28-year-old former N.F.L. running back was killed in a motorcycle crash in Florida.

MovieTok: A new generation of movie reviewers is reaching millions of viewers on TikTok. These reviewers tend to bristle at the title of “critic,” which they see as old-fashioned and snobbish. “A lot of us don’t trust critics,” said Bryan Lucious, who posts reviews under the name @stoney_tha_great. But traditional critics might say the feeling is mutual, as many TikTok movie reviewers eschew the old model of journalistic independence and sign promotional deals with Hollywood studios.

  • The Orlando Museum of Art filed a lawsuit accusing its former director of seeking to profit from a scheme to pass off paintings as Basquiats.

  • Xuxa was Brazil’s biggest TV star. Decades later, the country is reckoning with how a blond white woman became the symbol of such a diverse country.

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