The election year activities of local politicians have consumed us for months, but recent developments in the presidential race clearly require a diversion in our commentary.

In the “hush money” trial, a Manhattan jury found former President Donald Trump guilty of falsifying business records to influence the 2016 election. Meanwhile, Trump’s most persistent opponent, Nikki Haley, announced she will vote for Trump because even though she disagrees with him on many issues, he’s better than incumbent President Joe Biden. How will these contrasting events impact Utah and the presidential race?

Pignanelli: “When voters go to the polls, they will not think about Trump’s or Hunter Biden’s trials — they will deliberate about inflation, maybe foreign policy. This verdict is not on their radar.” — Julia Manchester, The Hill

The smallest unit of measurement used in science is the “Planck Length.” This tiny metric describes the infinitesimally minor impact of the jurors’ decision in the presidential election.

Not since 1892 have two former presidents competed in the general election. Consequently, Americans know the candidates and the complexity of the recent court deliberations will not budge solidified opinions. Any concerns with the felony convictions that polls are currently signaling will soon dissipate. The tiny sliver of voters in battleground states who will determine the race care about issues other than affairs with adult film stars and technical violations of federal election laws. Therefore, one Planck Length is a generous concession.

The Haley nonendorsement endorsement was predictable, as there is not a world in which she would have voted for Biden. Well liked in Utah, she may help Trump’s image.

“Planck Length” will be useful in November to describe the minute difference in the election results.

Webb: Most Republicans, including many moderate and mainstream Republicans who don’t like Trump (like me), believe the trial was unfair from its beginning and was “legal and political malpractice,” in the words of The Wall Street Journal editorial board (which is frequently critical of Trump).

The upshot is that some GOP moderates are more likely to vote for Trump today than they were before the trial. It’s tough to make a martyr out of someone who has absolutely no shame, but the Democrats, the prosecutors, the judge and the jurors have managed to do so in this case. The whole sordid episode is shaping up as a net win for Trump.

I still don’t like Donald Trump, but I also dislike how unfairly he has been treated, over and over again, by the Democrats, the traditional news media and the Washington establishment. It all makes me more likely to hold my nose and vote for him. I refuse to throw away my vote on a write-in or third party candidate, so the choice is between Trump or Biden (who I think has been a terrible president). It’s a depressing dilemma. Who to vote for when the only two real choices are nearly equally distasteful?

Trump has been attempting to reach out beyond his traditional base. He held a rally in the Bronx in New York City. He spoke at the Libertarian National Convention. He has been seeking support among Black and Hispanic voters. Will he be successful?

Pignanelli: Polling is indicating movement toward Trump in various demographics. Inflation has hit minority groups the hardest, for which Biden is receiving blame. Because Trump’s base forgives any statement or action he undertakes, then it is shrewd maneuvering to test these waters. Trump has nothing to lose to foster the lack of confidence in Biden by these voters. Also, other demographics suspicious of him (i.e., suburban women) may appreciate his willingness to expand support.

Webb: If the polls are correct, Trump is, indeed, making inroads among some traditional Democratic groups. He only needs a few percentage points to give him a real boost in the election. That such a flawed Republican could appeal to average citizens, even Democrats, demonstrates how badly the Democratic Party has misread the national mood and the desires of voters.

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Trump is expected to select a vice presidential running mate in the next several weeks. Will it make a difference for Utah voters?

Pignanelli: Utah is a red state and the ultimate outcome is unlikely to change regardless of who Trump chooses. But there will be deep interest in how key voter demographics respond. Sen. Tim Scott is popular in Utah. Because of the controversy surrounding the verdict, many local politicos are conjecturing a female running mate. It would be historic for all three major presidential candidates to have a woman on their tickets. Will there be a new social media movement, e.g., #PickHer?

Webb: Running mates seldom make much difference, but if Trump selects a more mainstream Republican, rather than a right-wing firebrand, it could help a bit among moderate voters. The bigger question is, what intelligent Republican with a modicum of self-respect would aspire to be vice president to Donald Trump — the man who demands absolute fealty but, on any whim, is disloyal himself? It can only end badly. Just ask Mike Pence.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semiretired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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