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Former President Donald Trump walks out of court and toward the media following the verdict in his hush money trial, in New York, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Mark Peterson/New York Magazine via AP, Pool)

Thirty-four criminal convictions are not going to make Donald J. Trump more popular with voters, nor are the criminal cases against him going to make him more politically powerful. The best case for him is that just enough voters are so frustrated with President Biden, and so disillusioned with the American political system, that they vote for Mr. Trump anyway.

If Mr. Trump is indeed in the catbird seat, with a strong chance of returning to the White House, the Biden campaign cannot turn things around by merely attacking his opponent. Mr. Biden and the Democrats need to make an affirmative case for themselves. They need to address the argument made by formerly never-Trump Republicans like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. Such Republicans say that Mr. Biden has been such a “catastrophe,” to use the word of former Trump primary opponent Nikki Haley, that voters have no choice but to hold their nose tighter and vote for someone who is now a convicted felon. The Biden campaign should be competent enough to make a case that Republicans like Mr. Sununu and Ms. Haley are engaging in the kind of hyperbole that has only made American politics more divisive and thus more dangerous. That can happen only if they resist the argument that a months-long celebration of the verdicts against Mr. Trump is their best way to win in November.

On the day that Mr. Trump was convicted in New York, he was polling at 41.2 percent of the national vote in 538.com’s average of polls. That is well below the 46.8 percent of the vote he got in the 2020 election, and his favorability rating of 41.6 percent in the same average of polls does not suggest an easy climb back to his highest political standing. But Mr. Biden was at only 39.3 percent in the 538 average of polls, which represents a sharper drop from the 51.3 percent he got in the 2020 election. (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was at 9.8 percent in the polling average.) At this point, Mr. Trump may be able to win by losing fewer supporters over time than Mr. Biden does, especially if a sizable number of Mr. Biden’s voters from 2020 stay home or opt for a third candidate.

The reality is that voters don’t have to like Mr. Trump, or think he’s a martyr of our legal system, in order to vote for him as the only realistic alternative to Mr. Biden. Personally unpopular people win elections all the time in the United States. Think of Richard Nixon, elected president with only 43.4 percent in 1968 (thanks in part to the third-party candidacy of George Wallace). Or Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky, who regularly has had favorability ratings below 40 percent in his own state but has repeatedly won re-election by wide margins because enough people in Kentucky have decided not to vote for a Democrat under any circumstances.

So, no, Mr. Trump does not have some kind of messianic hold over a growing number of American voters, and becoming a convicted felon is not going to make him any more popular. But he doesn’t need to become more popular to win.

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