EVANSVILLE — Donald Trump will not be the Republican Party's nominee for president next year, predicted 8th District GOP Congressman Larry Bucshon.

Bucshon, an Evansville resident, pointed Friday to the controversy that dogs Trump and the intense feelings the former president engenders from both supporters and opponents. Bucshon also pointed to a new poll from Public Opinion Strategies — a polling firm working for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign — that shows DeSantis gaining support against Trump among Republican voters.

"As time goes by here, I think, it’s about winning the election," Bucshon said. "I think a lot of people who are still supporting President Trump, the support is soft — and you’re hearing that when you actually talk to people.

"I think there’s some other (Republican presidential) candidates who potentially are going to overtake him and win the nomination. I don’t think he’s going to drop out — I just think people are going to overtake him and win the nomination because of all the things around him."

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Trump has made history as the first former president to face federal charges. He was most recently indicted on Aug. 14 by a grand jury in Georgia, accused of trying to steal the state's electoral votes from Democratic opponent Joe Biden in 2020. Trump surrendered at the Fulton County jail in Georgia on Thursday, where he was arrested and had a mugshot taken. 

It was Trump's fourth time being indicted and his second time being indicted in relation to the 2020 presidential election. The former president is also facing charges for allegedly illegally storing hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, falsifying business records in an attempt to conceal hush money payments and conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.  

Like most Republicans in Congress, Bucshon believes Democratic Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis is weaponizing the law to prosecute Trump for repeatedly insisting that Democrats stole the 2020 election from him. Trump supporters believe most of the prosecutions against him are politically motivated and ultimately will collapse under judicial scrutiny.

More:Bucshon falls squarely in the middle of Congress | Secrets of the Hill

Do I agree with the things that he said or did? No," Bucshon said. "I think he should have graciously conceded after he lost his court cases (challenging the 2020 election) — but that said, it’s about the rule of law and I think (Trump's claims are) protected speech under the First Amendment."

Willis, a Democrat, has become a lightning rod for attacks by supporters of Trump, who she indicted this month along with 18 others on charges related to an alleged conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The Republican-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Willis on Thursday launching an inquiry into whether she coordinated with federal officials for the indictment of Trump.

Bucshon said Willis launched a new campaign fundraising website days before the indictment highlighting the Trump investigation. Other House Republicans say the forewoman of the special grand jury Willis convened "bragged during an unusual media tour" about subpoenaing Trump.

Bucshon expects to be on the ballot himself next year.

The Republican congressman has held the 8th District seat securely for more than 12 years. Running for re-election every two years in the 21-county 8th District, he has rolled up one huge victory margin after another. No Democrat has garnered more than 36 percent of the vote against him since former state Rep. Dave Crooks got 43% in 2012. 

Bucshon hasn't made it official, but he said he intends to run at least one more time in 2024. He said he's not familiar with Princeton, Indiana, resident Kellie Moore, the only 8th District Democrat so far to announce a campaign for Congress.

"I don’t know her at all," Bucshon said.

In next year's presidential race, Bucshon supports Trump's vice president — former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Bucshon said Pence was a mentor and a friend to him when they served in Congress together a decade ago.

Pence is in a second tier of GOP presidential candidates in most polls, and Bucshon acknowledged that. But he just can't see Trump making it all the way to the finish line with all his legal problems and history of controversy. Political scientists call it "Trump fatigue."

"I think the noise around President Trump, people are going to start to say, ‘Well, it's about winning, and maybe we should go with another candidate,'" Bucshon said. "Who it’ll be, I don’t know." 

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