The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that only 29 percent of American voters believe Donald Trump will be “fit to be president” if he is convicted in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. In fact, only 58 percent of Republicans think he should serve again in the Oval Office if he’s loses the case. I could be wrong, but I actually believe these results underestimate the likely impact. Trump desperately needs a hung jury and mistrial.

But I don’t discount his chances of getting one. The survey also finds the general public highly skeptical that the proceedings in New York, which began with jury selection on Monday, are legitimate. Only a third of Americans believe Trump did anything illegal. Even fewer think Trump is getting or can get a fair shake in court. This actually extends to¬†all four criminal cases against him.

Yet, a cloud of doubt hangs over all the proceedings. Only about 3 in 10 Americans feel that any of the prosecutors who have brought charges against Trump are treating the former president fairly. And only about 2 in 10 Americans are extremely or very confident that the judges and jurors in the cases against him can be fair and impartial.

Now, the jury pool in Manhattan is probably less skeptical about the criminal cases against Trump than the nation as a whole, but it’s clear that he’s succeeded in convincing the majority of people that he’s the subject of a politicized judicial crusade. Nowhere is that impression stronger than in the Stormy Daniels case, as it’s highly doubtful a felony case would have been brought against a less prominent and provocative politician.

But that doesn’t mean Trump is innocent or that a jury won’t find him guilty. Most of the case is extremely easy to understand and there’s no room for innocence. He obviously filed false business reports in an effort to conceal payments to Daniels, in violation of law. If he continues to maintain (in or out of court) that he did not have an affair with Daniels, that’s only going to hurt his credibility and compound his problems. It’s doubtful he can convince anyone that his purpose in concealing the affair was wholly unrelated to his desire to win the 2016 election. And that’s really what his lawyers need to do, because felony convictions hinge on his state of mind. The false business records on their own are only misdemeanors, which haven’t been charged.

The simplicity of the story is probably why only 22 percent of those surveyed believe Trump did nothing wrong, which is fewer than in the election theft cases or the classified documents case. It’s just that a higher percentage think his behavior was unethical but not illegal. And I think that really shows the limitations of opinion polls, because the truth is many people think he did something illegal but too inconsequential to deserve arrest and consequences, certainly on felony counts. There’s no obvious way for them to answer this poll, except to say he behavior was merely unethical.

And that’s also how the jurors are going to decide their verdict. He obviously is guilty, but maybe he should get a pass because the punishment is too harsh. Trump only needs one juror to act as a spoiler, and they don’t necessarily have to be some MAGA holdout. It’s up to the prosecutors to convince the jurors of the worthiness of their case, and they’re starting from a losing position if this polling can be believed.

A verdict is expected in six weeks, and that’s somewhere around 25-30 days that Trump will be a defendant in court. If he gets a mistrial, he may largely recover from the impression that makes on the electorate, but it’s going to be damaging either way. People will get used to thinking of him as a criminal, and the facts of the case are the furthest thing from flattering.

If he is convicted, I’m curious when sentencing will take place. I anticipate that the judge will not be in a merciful mood after contending with Trump’s antics for a further six weeks, plus the post-trial period before sentencing. There’s a non-zero chance he will have already have incarcerated Trump for repeated violations of his orders. This is the real wildcard, because a well-behaved defendant with no prior convictions would not be sentenced to jail time on these charges. But that’s going to be the choice the judge faces, as we all know.

If he’s sentenced to prison at the end of this process, I expect most people will feel he’s earned it through his contemptuous behavior. In other words, even if they didn’t begin believing Trump was getting a fair shake, they’ll understand by the end that the judge had ample justification.

At least, that’s what I hope. I don’t want jury nullification in this case, and I don’t think Trump should get probation when Michael Cohen went to prison for his role in the Stormy Daniels payout.

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