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Despite legal woes, Trump trounces rivals for GOP nomination in new poll

Twice-impeached former president Donald Trump is trouncing his GOP rivals in the polls, as he seeks presidential reelection in 2024, despite mounting legal troubles and multiple indictments that he has vowed will not stand in his way.

According to the newest New York Times poll, Trump, 77, is polling higher than his closest rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, by 37 percentage points.

The July survey polled 1,329 registered voters nationwide with “an oversample” of 818 registered Republican voters. It had a margin of error of about 3.67%

The poll of members of the likely Republican primary electorate found that Trump leads his rivals by wide margins across the board, 54% to DeSantis’s 17%.

Other candidates, including former vice president Mike Pence and former UN envoy Nikki Haley, did not top 3% in the poll among respondents, who did not see Trump’s indictments and possible convictions and prison time as obstacles to voting for him. Over 75% of those polled said they held a “favorable” opinion of the former president, whose time in the White House ended in an attack on the US Capitol in January 2021, when he refused to concede Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 elections.

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The attack is part of a federal investigation into Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the result of that 2020 election.

Over 70% of respondents said they did not think Trump committed serious federal crimes in the multiple state and federal investigations against him, including his handling of classified government documents.

Trump was first indicted in the classified documents case last month, accused of endangering national security by holding onto top secret nuclear and defense information after leaving the White House. On Thursday, the Justice Department added charges to its more than three dozen counts against Trump, who was found by a jury in a civil trial in May to have raped a writer in Manhattan in the 1990s.

Republican presidential candidate former president Donald Trump greets supporters after speaking at the Republican Party of Iowa’s 2023 Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, July 28, 2023. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Trump is also facing dozens of felony charges in a case involving hush money payments to a porn star in New York and is bracing for indictment in separate state and federal investigations into his role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

In a major development Thursday in the documents probe, Special Counsel Jack Smith alleged that Trump, who is scheduled to go on trial at the height of the campaign in March and May next year, asked a worker at his beachfront estate in Florida to delete surveillance footage to obstruct investigators.

Trump, who denies all wrongdoing, was also charged with illegally retaining national defense information over a document he is accused of showing to journalists at his New Jersey golf club.

He pledged Friday to pursue his White House bid, even if convicted and sentenced in one of the legal cases.

Asked by radio host John Fredericks if being sentenced would stop his 2024 campaign, Trump quickly responded: “Not at all. There’s nothing in the Constitution to say that it could.”

According to the NYT poll, if presidential elections were held today, 84% of respondents said they would vote for Trump. If the Republican primary were held today, 54% said they would vote for Trump, and 17% would go for DeSantis. Of those polled, 68% said they considered themselves Republican voters, and 24% said they were Independents.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s 2023 Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, July 28, 2023. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

DeSantis appears to be in a campaign lull — the 44-year-old has seen Trump’s lead widen from 13 points in February to over 30 now, as he has failed to connect with voters and has been beset by a series of largely self-inflicted controversies.

His team was forced this week to fire a staffer who promoted a video featuring Nazi imagery, and the candidate sparked outrage by suggesting he would pick anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to lead his public health policy.

Aides announced they were firing a third of the campaign’s staff, as they acknowledged wild overspending, and DeSantis earned further criticism as he defended his state’s heavily criticized new curriculum teaching the benefits of slavery.

With Iowa and then New Hampshire voters due to pick their favored Republican nominee in six months, most of the candidates have been camped out in those states, attending campaign events daily.