Analysis-Colorado ballot case adds fuel to Trump’s nomination drive

By James Oliphant and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The latest legal challenge to Donald Trump’s campaign for a second term as president seems likely to hand the 2024 Republican frontrunner even more firepower in his quest to win his party’s nomination.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the former president was barred from its state ballot for engaging in “insurrection” due to a rarely used constitutional provision, an unprecedented decision that the conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court could overturn.

Donors and political analysts from both major parties said the ruling would inflame Trump’s political base, fuel his argument that he is the victim of a partisan legal process, and fill his campaign coffers, as happened earlier this year when he was indicted on a bevy of felony charges for attempting to overturn the 2020 election among other alleged crimes. Those charges did not include insurrection.

“Trump is celebrating,” said John Morgan, a Florida attorney and key fundraiser for President Joe Biden, a Democrat. He forecast a “fundraising bonanza” for the Republican.

Trump vowed to appeal to U.S. Supreme Court the Colorado ruling that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars him from seeking office. The top court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees.

His campaign urged supporters to donate to fight back against what it called a “tyrannical” decision.

Trump, 77, has a slight lead over Biden nationally in a head-to-head match-up ahead of the Nov. 5, 2024, election, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The Colorado ruling could help Democrats appeal to crucial independent voters who believe Trump engaged in insurrection.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Dec. 5-11, 57% of independent voters said it was believable that Trump “tried to incite a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.” Only 30% said it was unbelievable.

By contrast, some 70% of Republican respondents considered that allegation “not believable,” while 23% of Republicans said it was believable and the rest were not sure.

Asked on Wednesday if Trump is an insurrectionist, Biden said it was “self evident. You saw it all.”

“Whether the 14th Amendment applies or not, we’ll let the court make that decision,” Biden said. “But he certainly supported an insurrection. There’s no question about it. None. Zero. And he seems to be doubling down on it.”


Trump remains the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination and being barred in Colorado would not change that. The state, which has been trending Democratic, is not seen as competitive in next year’s general election.

The decision came less than a month before the first Republican nominating contest kicks off in Iowa on Jan. 15, thrusting the spotlight back on Trump at a time when former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has been gaining some momentum.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist based in Florida, said the ruling would reinforce Trump’s longstanding narrative that he is the victim of a politically motivated legal process and it could push undecided Republican voters to his corner.

“If the indictments propelled Trump to a significant lead in the primary, this is going to end any debate among the grassroots about who the 2024 Republican nominee will be,” O’Connell said.

As happened with Trump’s previous court cases, Republican rivals for the nomination leaped to his defense rather than seek to benefit from the Colorado decision.

“The Left invokes ‘democracy’ to justify its use of power, even if it means abusing judicial power to remove a candidate from the ballot based on spurious legal grounds,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote on X.

Haley called the judges’ action “truly unthinkable.”

“I am going to defeat Donald Trump on my own,” she told Fox News. “I don’t need a judge to go take him off the ballot.”

In the 4-3 ruling, the Colorado court’s majority said they apply the law “without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

Biden has been going after Trump more aggressively in recent months and has said he might not be running at all if he were not facing Trump, who he believes poses a unique threat to the U.S.

Some of Biden’s aggressiveness comes after his touting of the economy has fallen flat with voters, leading donors to push him to frame his 2024 campaign more directly as a battle against Trump.

In the unlikely event a number of states strike Trump from the ballot, making it impossible for him to win the nomination, Biden would not necessarily benefit.

Some polls have shown both DeSantis and Haley would run a competitive race against the 81-year-old incumbent.

Hassan Martini, executive director of No Democrat Left Behind, an advocacy group that seeks to win over rural voters, said Trump would try to use the ruling to his advantage and Biden must stay focused on strengths including economic progress, bipartisan outreach and steady leadership.

“Getting caught in the trap of endless Trump controversies would only benefit his opponents,” Martini said.

(Reporting by James Oliphant, Nandita Bose, Andrea Shalal, Alexandra Ulmer, Jason Lange, Nathan Layne, Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Heather Timmons and Colleen Jenkins)