Trump Rises in Polls After Mugshot Release

Recent surveys show former president increasing his lead over rivals for GOP nomination
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2023 10:20 AM CDT
Trump's Mugshot Doesn't Seem to Be Hurting Him
This booking photo shows former President Donald Trump on Thursday after he surrendered and was booked at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta.   (Fulton County Sheriff's Office via AP)

A presidential candidate who skips debates and has had a mugshot released after one of several criminal indictments wouldn't normally be expected to stay in the race, let alone remain the frontrunner. But the latter is exactly what's happening for former President Trump, whose lead over rivals for the GOP nomination has only grown since his booking photo from the Fulton County Jail in Georgia was released last week. Per the Guardian, a recent Coefficient poll of 2,700 or so likely GOP primary voters commissioned by the Trump campaign put Trump at 58%—three points more than he claimed at the beginning of August. The closest Republican candidate to him in the more recent poll was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with 13%.

A Morning Consult poll conducted Friday through Sunday of about 3,600 potential GOP primary voters showed similar numbers, with Trump at 58% and DeSantis at 14%. The Guardian notes that these surveys suggest "that some of DeSantis' principal campaign arguments—that he is more electable than Trump—have failed to cut through with likely Republican voters even after he had the opportunity to establish himself last week in Trump's absence on the debate stage."

The Trump mugshot has evolved into more than a routine law-enforcement image since it was disseminated. The Atlantic notes that although in most cases such a photo would serve as "an exercise in humility," Trump and his associates have instead transformed it into a "threat," with Trump even using it in his first post on X (the former Twitter) in more than two and a half years. Per the New York Times, the mugshot has become collateral for a "dangerous marketing" scheme, one in which both the left and the right are claiming it for their own purposes. "Normally you would be ashamed of a mug shot and what it represents," Rutgers history professor Wendy Woloson tells the paper. "But this is a way for both sides to own it. Literally. To domesticate it and make it safe by turning it into a commodity."

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One super PAC supporting a Trump rival for the GOP nomination isn't shying away from using the Trump mugshot, despite its apparent appeal to at least some of his base. NBC News reports that the Tell It Like It Is PAC, which has gotten behind former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, incorporated the photo into its latest broadcast TV ad that's airing in New Hampshire. On Tuesday evening, CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins asked Christie if he thought using the mugshot would actually do any damage to Trump in the Republican primary. The picture "reminds everybody what he's done to the country," Christie replied. "This is his conduct." (More Donald Trump stories.)

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