Here is a simple fact about Donald Trump. There is never a knock-out blow. Not even now that he has been found to have sexually abused E Jean Carroll and is liable to pay her more than $5million in damages.
A finding that would destroy most political careers may not lead to any sudden change in Donald Trump’s political fortunes.
His keenest backers will simply believe him when he says it’s all made up. Those in the party who are less keen, but see no hope of anyone else being the candidate, will stick with him.
The fact that the rape allegation was not proven might help with this latter group. They will be thinking this is a civil case – the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal trial. And that the events were also many years ago.
They have held their collective noses before with The Donald: they will almost certainly decide to do it again.
Here is a simple fact about Donald Trump. There is never a knock-out blow
Trump has been found to have sexually abused E Jean Carroll and is liable to pay her more than $5million in damages
Justin Webb (pictured): ‘He is dangerous when attacked, when cornered. He seems to like it, thrives on it’
Meanwhile, the man himself is already roaring defiance: ‘THE VERDICT IS A DISGRACE’, was his predictable response in capitals on his social media channel.
He is dangerous when attacked, when cornered. He seems to like it, thrives on it. As I write, he has a so-called ‘town hall’ meeting – a live TV event – with CNN planned later this evening and I expect him to turn up and to fight back.
But here is his problem. Even if this court has not delivered a knock-out blow, it has done some damage. Republicans want to win the next election against a president they regard as useless and doddering. They have turned back to Trump in recent weeks because he has been looking increasingly strong. He was gaining momentum again.
This verdict stops that momentum. It raises a simple question in the minds of the Republican Party he has so successfully hijacked.
Do we feel lucky? Or, to put it another way, do we think that the wider electorate – floating voters in the few key states where the presidential election of 2024 will be won – will be put off by the steadily growing rap sheet that Donald Trump brings with him
They will be asking themselves whether it might be time to bail. Not this minute. The primary campaign that the eventual candidate must win does not get under way until next year.
But when that campaign starts, this court finding could well come back to haunt Trump. People will not ask whether he is a nice guy. They already know the answer. But they will ask whether he is a winner.
And the suggestion that Trump is a loser with the wider American electorate is one that already haunts the Republican Party.
Remember that, for all his bombast and staggering durability, he has also taken part in some pretty momentous defeats.
It was Donald Trump who lost the election of 2020. And although some of his die-hard supporters still think the result was rigged, many Republicans at the top of the party are perfectly well aware of what actually happened.
Trump had already lost his party a good deal of ground in the 2018 midterm elections. And in the most recent midterms, in 2022, the candidates he backed often faltered. He may well have cost his party control of the Senate.
There is an anti-Trump story to be told within the party – if any Republican dares to tell it.
This is the challenge to the other candidates now. The biggest of them, the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, is going to come under increasing pressure himself: to put up or to shut up.
DeSantis has gone off the boil in recent weeks. He has not formally declared that he is in the race against Trump.
When the former president was hauled to New York to face fraud charges, DeSantis tried to have it both ways, revelling in Trump’s embarrassment but at the same time suggesting the trial itself was a Democratic Party fix.
That tightrope-walking is going to have to end. It is getting DeSantis and the other non-Trump candidates nowhere, making Trump look strong and them look weak.
If he wants to be president, Ron DeSantis is going to have to make the case to Republicans that Donald Trump is history. He is going to have to come out and say that Trump is a loser.
And if he and others do so it is entirely possible that the floodgates open and Trump is, politically speaking, swept away.
Of course, Trump would not go quietly. Which is why DeSantis and others need a series of big sticks to beat him with. They will have to keep doing it and this will take some fortitude.
But they have plenty of sticks in their hands now. And a very big one has just been delivered by this court decision. Beating Donald Trump has become easier with the sexual assault finding.
Donald Trump is still standing. And among Republicans desperate for a 2024 winner, there are more questions, more worries – but also a rising hope that they can finally say goodbye to the maelstrom of the years when The Donald dominated their party.
Justin Webb is the former BBC North America Editor and a presenter on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.