Sarah Longwell, anti-Trumper and host of The Focus Group podcast, has conducted seven focus groups this year with two-time Trump voters, many of whom were leaning toward voting for someone else this cycle—particularly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But last Friday, the day following news of Donald Trump's indictment, Longwell stumbled upon something different in the focus group when she asked who Trump voters were planning to vote for in the primary.
"I hadn't seen a group in which everybody wanted to vote for Donald Trump in 2024, until this group," Longwell told CNN's Inside Politics on Sunday.
"This is the first group where everybody said Trump," she continued. "They were ready to donate to Trump, they were ready to buy the t-shirts with his mug shot on it, they were mad and animated."
In anonymous audio clips from the focus group, one woman said, "As soon as I heard the news, I felt like I'm him even more." The woman said she had never before donates money to a party, adding, "but I feel like I might."
Another woman said, "It's like a smear campaign. It's like they're out to get him, and we can see straight through it."
Reuters had likewise been tracking 35 Republican activists and voters since before the indictment news broke and found that among 20 who had been eyeing DeSantis as a Trump alternative, 14 said the indictment was pushing them back toward Trump.
One of them was Larry White, a 75-year-old GOP conservative from Nevada.
"Now I am absolutely voting for Trump," White told Reuters. "The indictment was the last straw for me, because Trump has suffered so much political abuse. I think he's the strongest candidate to contest what the left is doing. I'm all in."
A post-indictment poll over the weekend from Yahoo News/YouGov likewise found Trump dramatically increasing his lead over DeSantis in a head-to-head, 57%-31% now, up from 47%-39% last month.
A CNN/SSRS survey last weekend showed that Republicans largely view the indictment as politically motivated, with 93% holding that view, while 52% of independents agree and just 25% of Democrats do.
But the same CNN poll found that 60% of Americans approve of the indictment, including 62% of independents while just 38% of the cohort disapprove.
And that's ultimately the rub for Republican voters: No matter how passionately they want to protect their guy, some 3 in 5 voters support the Manhattan indictment and likely others coming down the pike.
So as indictments pile up, the real question is whether Republican voters start to migrate back to where they were initially—Trump's got too much baggage and the GOP needs a nominee who can win. Equally as important, if and when that time comes, who among Trump’s rivals is politically positioned to capitalize on that sentiment and will they have the guts to do it.