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Keller: Trump "hush money" trial verdict might not affect presidential race

Keller: Could the outcome in Trump's trial have an effect on the 2024 presidential race?
Keller: Could the outcome in Trump's trial have an effect on the 2024 presidential race? 02:52

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

BOSTON - As we await the verdict in the "hush money" trial of former President Donald Trump, political observers wonder how it might affect the outcome of the presidential race. Guilty or not guilty? And will it matter either way when the voting starts this fall?

Poll: Majority of undecided voters think Trump is guilty

A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll found a solid majority of undecided voters think the former president is guilty of some or all of the charges. But Trump has planted a thriving crop of doubt among those same voters, repeatedly telling them "I'm being forced to sit for days on end in a kangaroo courtroom with a corrupt and conflicted judge." 

Nearly four in ten say the trial is fair, but the rest either say it isn't or are undecided about that. "Donald Trump has positioned himself to win in either scenario," said Dave Paleologos, head of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. "He's been talking about a corrupt judge and an unfair trial, and if he's found guilty he'll say, 'See, I told you so.' And if he's acquitted he will say, 'I told you so.'" 

And whatever the verdict, there are more than five months to go before Election Day, an eternity in politics. 

"Trump is still going to be campaigning, holding rallies, doing speeches and appealing the decision," noted Paleologos. "So in the eyes of the voting public, he's still active, he's still pursuing it, it's similar to an impeachment. You're impeached and then you move on." 

Would the undecided voter really go for a convicted felon in the fall?

"If their personal situation is that dire, they can't pay their bills and their life is much worse than it was four years ago, then it may not matter who the candidate is, they may just want to vote the people in office out," said Paleologos. 

While this situation is unprecedented in many ways, it is reminiscent of 1992, when Bill Clinton unseated President George H.W. Bush. Clinton had sex scandal baggage, but Bush was blamed for the faltering economy. And a third-party candidate named Ross Perot took a lot of votes from Bush in key states. In that recent Suffolk poll, Bobby Kennedy Jr. supporters were more than twice as likely as those undecided voters to view the Trump trial as unfair. 

So you wonder if some of them might wind up rallying around Trump.  

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