You don’t have to be a hardcore cynic to believe that one of the goals of Tuesday’s indictment of Donald Trump — the third this year — is to keep the GOP primary electorate rallying around the former president. It’s a transparent political ploy openly discussed by operatives on both sides of the aisle. So if it works, Republican primary voters will have nobody to blame but themselves.

But if Trump does win the nomination and then goes on to beat President Joe Biden next November, who will Democrats blame then?

When Trump was indicted for the first time — and on a legal theory just as novel as the one prosecutor Jack Smith used Tuesday — veteran Democratic operative Bob Shrum told NHJournal any attempts by Democrats to boost Trump’s candidacy would be a mistake.

“I don’t want to run against Trump because he might win,” said Shrum, now the Director of the Center for the Political Future at USC Dornsife. “The problem with this ‘help Trump win’ strategy — and smart people know this — is that Hillary Clinton was rooting for Trump in 2016, too.”

As time passes and new poll numbers roll in, Shrum looks more prescient every day.

Many Granite State Democrats see Trump at the top of the ticket as a dream come true. He lost the state in 2020 by nearly eight points — and that was before the controversies of January 6, the bogus “stolen election” scam, and the multiple indictments. With millions to spend attacking Granite State GOP candidates as pro-Trump and anti-choice, they see Gov. Joyce Craig in the corner office and a solid legislative majority to pass her agenda in Concord.

But there’s another scenario, one bolstered by both biology and Hunter Biden’s bank records: An elderly, unsteady incumbent, suffering low approval ratings and dogged by questions about phone calls with his son’s shady foreign business partners, hiding out in a Delaware basement.

That’s the Joe Biden Democrats are betting on. That’s one voters will see between now and November 2024.

That’s 15 months of staircases, hot microphones, and unscripted encounters with the press for an 80-year-old candidate about whom only one thing is certain: 12 months from today, he will be 365 days older.

He will also be the candidate who skipped the Granite State’s primary entirely based on the premise that the New Hampshire voters in his own party aren’t “diverse” enough to be trusted with the duties of the First in the Nation vote.

Democrats gloated (and with good reason) when The New York Times/Siena College poll dropped Monday, showing Trump with a massive 37-point lead over DeSantis and the rest of the field at 3 percent or less.

But a day later, that same poll also showed Biden and Trump tied in a head-to-head race, and Biden’s approval rating at a dismal 39 percent. It is just one of many recent polls indicating that, as of today, Trump vs. Biden is a coin toss.

How can it be this close? Check out their negatives. While 55 percent of voters disapprove of Donald Trump, 54 percent feel the same about Biden.

These aren’t outliers. The CBS poll released this weekend has Biden’s approval at 40 percent. On the economy, it’s 34 percent.

Once again, this is today. Right now. It’s before Biden suffers another embarrassing fall while boarding Air Force One. Or appears to drift off during a White House sit down with a head of state. Or tries to explain the next round of revelations about his direct interactions with foreign businessmen who gave money to his son.

Do Democrats honestly believe the Joe Biden of August 2024 will be in better shape than the Biden of today?

Biden’s mantra is, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” And here again, Democrats’ math is shaky. Americans know the alternative. Donald Trump is both the most famous and the most hated man in U.S. politics. There’s nothing you can tell Americans about him they don’t already know. Liar? Con man? Conspiracy-spewing, self-absorbed jerk?

Americans know all that… and he’s still tied with Joe Biden.

Predicting the future of politics, particularly in this hyper-partisan, social-media-saturated moment is a fool’s errand. But it’s hard to look at the likelihood of a Biden vs. Trump race and not recall 2016. That was the year a candidate with no chance of winning ran against a candidate who was guaranteed to lose.

The result was Donald Trump.

With a nominee approaching his 82nd birthday, who is frequently incoherent in public, and who has a year of influence-peddling allegations ahead of him, how confident are Democrats that 2024 will be different?

Polls show only a third of Democrats even want Biden to run again. Perhaps all this is a sign the president should pull an “LBJ” and announce he won’t seek another term. In 1968, that allowed Lyndon Johnson’s vice president to become the party’s nominee.

Hey, Democrats — have you met Kamala Harris?