As the select committee investigating Jan. 6 focuses like a laser on indicting Donald Trump in the court of public opinion, many Americans have understandably wondered: "Will it even matter?"
For Democratic voters, it might prove motivating in November. On the margins of the Republican Party, maybe the damning mountain of evidence makes a difference. But the notion that the GOP base or MAGA Republicans might care even one iota seemed dead on arrival.
New reporting suggests, however, that Trump's star is falling among some in the donor class, and even among some Trump voters.
Politico reports that Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is “lying in wait, sharpening his knives” as the Jan. 6 panel puts Trump symbolically on trial without anyone—on or off the committee—defending him.
“There are of course the lunchbox Republicans who think this is a ‘mass conspiracy,’ but among the donor class many are just tired of this," said one DeSantis adviser. "It’s a shitshow. Some donors are getting sick of the shitshow.”
Certainly worth grain-of-salt consideration since it comes from a DeSantis adviser. But one sign that DeSantis feels the wind at his back has been his decision not to seek Trump's endorsement for reelection. DeSantis is also without peer in his unwillingness to publicly profess that he will defer to Trump should he decide to run in 2024.
But DeSantis aside, the most convincing sign that Trump is losing some of his swagger comes from the latest Focus Group podcast hosted by never-Trumper and The Bulwark founder Sarah Longwell.
Longwell's latest episode focuses on two groups of Trump voters: those who voted for him twice, and what Longwell calls “reverse-flippers,” or those who voted against Trump in 2016 but decided they liked what they saw enough to switch to voting for him in 2020.
According to Longwell, who has been conducting Trump focus groups for years now, these two groups—which were conducted amid the Jan. 6 hearings—presented a total anomaly.
"In both of these focus groups, for the first time ever, I had two focus groups back-to-back where not a single person thought Donald Trump should run again."
Just to be clear, no one suggested that they no longer liked Trump or had stopped supporting him. They had simply soured on the idea of him running again in 2024. Here’s what GOP voters from the reverse-flippers had to say:
"Nothing has changed—he is still alienating people every single day. And that was my big problem with him in 2016. Everyone said, oh, give him a break, he's from New York, he comes from construction and that's just how they talk. Well, I'm sorry, I am the average woman in America and I don't allow anyone to speak to me that way," said one woman from the group who originally voted against Trump in 2016. "I talk to people from all over the world, and I expect respect and he did not deliver that," she said, adding that women would not turn out to vote for him.
Another woman offered, "They keep talking about the results of the election. I feel like even in his roadshow he keeps bringing that up like it's a grudge ... I just feel like we've past that. So that's the other thing—it's like, can't let that go."
One man added, "I think in the Republican Party there are other better candidates that should run, and I feel like Trump running, it will just dilute and put a bad taste in people's mouth. Now if he wants to go run independent, like, sure, whatever—go do your thing cuz I guess you can. But the Republican Party should move on, turn the page, and go focus on a better candidate cuz there are better candidates out there."
Now let's hear from the MAGA diehards who voted for Trump twice:
"I think it's time to move on. I like what he did, I like what he changed. I just think it's probably spent, and now it's time to find someone else who has similar ideas and find someone who is more of a businessman and a little less politician," said one woman.
One man observed, "We're so split right now, we don't need to be polarized any more. Ya know, this idiot in the White House now, 'Oh, I'm going to bring the country together.' We need somebody now that's going to do that, and it's got to come from the right side."
Spoiler alert: The top choice for new blood was ... Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Let's just stop here to marvel at the fact that it's possible, just possible, GOP voters are finally a little tired of Trump. Will it stick? Who knows. But Longwell chalks it up to the ambient noise being caused by the forceful case being made the Jan. 6 committee. Trumpers don't like the panel—they generally pooh-pooh it, call it corrupt, and say they're not listening to any of it. But somehow, it does seem to be reaching them on some level.
For Longwell, these two focus groups alone aren't the tell. In fact, she said she would never read so much into just two focus groups.
"The fact that I've done so many other ones, where it's always been consistent in a different way. To suddenly have in the context of the hearings two where no one wants him to run again—and almost emphatically so—I genuinely think that [the committee] is making a difference," she said.
Again, that’s no guarantee that the immediate mood of Trump voters carries over after the hearings end. But it is interesting to note that the hearings are breaking through in at least some way—even for Trumpers who entirely dismiss them. It makes one wonder how the hearings are playing to swing voters, Trump-Biden voters, and the Democratic base. We don’t exactly know, but it certainly can’t be hurting the overall case for voting against a Trump-complicit Republican Party in the midterms.
For now, however, it’s fair to say that even among his own voters, Trump will have some ground to make up following the hearings if he runs in 2024. And it’s still hard to imagine he won’t.
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