A lot of key primaries in the 2024 election are in January, February, and March.
Donald Trump's hush money trial date is March 25.
It's entirely possible he could win the primary before he faces the court.
Former President Donald Trump could be the presumptive GOP presidential nominee before his New York criminal trial even begins.
On Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan set March 25 as the date for Trump's trial related to his alleged hush-money scheme to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.
Merchan's decision spares Trump the once-possible reality of juggling the trial and last-minute campaigning before the first-in-the-nation Iowa Republican caucuses. Now, Trump may be able to amass enough delegates to build a potentially insurmountable lead before his foes could even use the reaction to his trial to their advantage.
It also raises the historic possibility of the presumptive nominee of one of America's two largest political parties facing a potential prison sentence before the general election.
Many critical primaries happen before the trial
The hush-money trial is now likely set to occur after all four of the early states have voted. While some states have yet to lock in specific days, delegate-rich states such as Texas and California will have their primaries on March 5 for Super Tuesday, per FrontLoading HQ. While Florida and Ohio Republicans will have voted just 10 days prior to the trial date.
Unlike Democrats, Republican primaries are much more likely to embrace winner-take-most rules.
Trump ruthlessly took advantage of these rules in 2016, as Brookings' Elaine Kamarck showed. Josh Putnam, who is an expert on nomination rules and calendar machinations, has suggested that the former president could even benefit from inroads his reelection campaign made in 2020 delegate rules if state parties reject any new changes.
Trump allies have control over the Republican National Committee in key states, and have attempted to make the rules favorable for a Trump campaign by emphasizing winner-take-all and winner-take-most rules.
A rocky road ahead for the Trump campaign
Trump's legal headaches outline a complicated schedule that could overshadow the presidential race and distract his attention at key moments. It could also make it difficult for his rivals, who as Seth Masket and Julia Azari wrote for MSNBC, might have to weigh staying in the race as an emergency alternative.
In the event of an unprecedented situation, Republicans don't have some sort of super delegate Trump card. Theoretically, any convention could devolve into an open floor fight, but that hasn't happened in decades.
The GOP could change the rules right before a convention, but the reality is that the norms of politics did not anticipate a scenario where a party wants to ditch its nominee but the candidate refuses to step aside.
The New York trial is also far from Trump's only worry.
The former president and his two sons will face a January 29, 2024, civil trial over allegations they promoted a scam multi-level marketing scheme. It also remains to be seen if Trump will be indicted for his actions leading up to the Capitol riot or for taking classified documents with him back to Mar-a-Lago. Trump has claimed he has done nothing wrong in both instances. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that special counsel Jack Smith has all but finished his investigation.
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