Trump holds big lead in Republican nominating contest

A poll has found 61 per cent of Republicans would vote for Donald Trump in the nominating contest to pick a challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden, while US lawmakers seek a quick Supreme Court review of Trump ‘immunity’.

Dec 12, 2023, updated Dec 12, 2023

Donald Trump maintains his dominant position in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating contest, drawing the support of more than half of the party’s voters, according to an opinion poll.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found 61 per cent of self-identified Republicans said they would vote for the former US president in the state-by-state nominating contest to pick a challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden.

None of his rivals were anywhere close.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley were each backed by 11 per cent of self-identified Republicans.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy stood at 5 per cent, while former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got 2 per cent and 8 per cent said they were undecided.

The first ballots of the 2024 US elections will be cast in Iowa’s Republican caucus on January 15.

The poll found little evidence Republican voters are swayed by the battery of federal and state criminal charges Trump faces.

Fewer than one-quarter of Republican respondents said they believed accusations that Trump solicited election fraud or solicited a mob of his supporters to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 – two of the central charges in a federal criminal case due to go to trial at the height of the state-by-state nominating contest.

The poll also found few signs Republican voters opposed to Trump are rallying around one of his rivals.

Haley’s position has improved since September, when a Reuters/Ipsos poll found her tied for fourth place at 4 per cent.

But she and the other candidates have only fallen farther behind Trump, who had the backing of 51 per cent of Republicans in that poll.

The online poll of 1689 self-identified Republicans was conducted between December 5 and December 11. It has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

US seeks quick Supreme Court review of Trump ‘immunity’

Meanwhile, US Special Counsel Jack Smith has asked the top court to rule on whether Donald Trump can be prosecuted on charges he plotted to overturn election results.

The US special counsel prosecuting Trump on federal charges of trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat has asked the US Supreme Court to launch a fast-track review of the former president’s claim he cannot be tried on those charges.

The Supreme Court said it would quickly review Special Counsel Jack Smith’s request, ordering Trump’s lawyers to respond to the request by December 20.

Trump has appealed a decision by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan on December 1 rejecting his bid to dismiss the case.

The judge found no legal support for the position argued by Trump’s lawyers that former presidents cannot face criminal charges for conduct related to their official responsibilities.

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It is rare for a prosecutor to ask the Supreme Court to intervene in a case before a lower appeals court has already ruled, but Smith’s move reflects the urgency ahead of the November 5 election.

If re-elected, Trump could seek to pardon himself of any federal crimes.

Smith told the Supreme Court in a written filing that the “case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy”.

Trump contends that this case and three other criminal prosecutions he faces are politically motivated.

Trump’s appeal suspends his trial, which was scheduled to begin on March 4.

“It is of imperative public importance that (Trump’s) claims of immunity be resolved by this court and that (Trump’s) trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected,” Smith said.

Smith said claims by Trump are “profoundly mistaken”, adding only the Supreme Court “can definitively resolve them.”

Three of the nine justices were appointed by Trump, who cemented a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

Legal experts have said Trump’s lawyers could use his immunity appeals to delay the trial, freeing him to campaign.

Prosecutors have accused Trump of attempting to obstruct Congress and defraud the US government through schemes to overturn his loss to Biden in 2020.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to these charges, as well as charges stemming from three other ongoing criminal prosecutions.

A Trump spokesperson on Monday reiterated criticism of the prosecution as politically motivated, saying, “Smith is willing to try for a Hail Mary by racing to the Supreme Court and attempting to bypass the appellate process.”

Smith asked the justices on Monday to resolve whether a former president is immune from federal prosecution for conduct undertaken in office, and “the effect, if any, that his acquittal in impeachment proceedings has on this federal prosecution.”

Smith asked the court to fast-track the written submissions required in the case, urging a December 18 deadline for Trump to file a response to his petition.

Chutkan, in rejecting Trump’s immunity claim earlier this month, wrote that attaining the office of US president “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”


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