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Keller: Biden campaign needs to be smart about message after Trump conviction

Keller: Trump guilty verdict could sway undecided voters in 2024 election
Keller: Trump guilty verdict could sway undecided voters in 2024 election 02:45

The opinions expressed below are Jon Keller's, not those of WBZ, CBS News or Paramount Global.

BOSTON - Donald Trump lovers are furious. Donald Trump haters are elated by the guilty verdict in his "hush money" trial in New York City. But what's at issue is the reaction of a small slice of the electorate - the undecided swing voters who won't be making up their minds for months.

Convicted felon candidate

Some polls suggest they don't like the idea of a convicted felon candidate. For others, the verdict, and the cries of injustice from Trump will just deepen their skepticism of the system.

But it would be surprising if what happened in that courtroom turns out to be good news for Trump. Just look at the solid vote totals Nikki Haley keeps harvesting in Republican primaries. She ran explicitly on the notion that Trump's baggage would damage the party's chances and distract voter attention from Joe Biden's shortcomings. Every day from now on spent spewing overheated rhetoric about how this verdict was an attack on America is a day spent reminding these voters of what they don't like about Trump, just as Haley predicted.

Gift for Biden?

While the Biden campaign has just been given a political gift, they have to be smart about what they do with it.

Biden wants the vote to be a referendum on Trump more than on his own performance. Trump himself said Thursday the real verdict will come on November 5th, suggesting that he'll be ramping up his efforts to make this election all about vindicating himself.

That may be catnip for his base, but those crucial swing voters have other concerns and a track record of breaking against Trump and his preferred candidates down the stretch, as we saw in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

Biden can benefit from Trump returning to fulltime campaigning if Trump spends all his time ranting about the verdict and trying to blame it on Biden, as he's likely to do. He just can't control himself.

So, the play for Biden is to let the verdict speak for itself and let Trump keep digging himself a hole by talking about stuff the swing voters have little appetite for. They want to hear about what he can do for them, not what he wants them to do for him. 

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