Few, if any, conservatives are turning on the former president. But they’re tiring of the drama. At least for now.
As the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots lays out Donald Trump’s obsessive efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, Trump allies have responded with the political equivalent of a collective eye roll.
But elsewhere in the party, operatives are taking notice. The former president is being damaged, they say — perhaps not fatally, but notably so.
In interviews, those operatives describe a GOP electorate still enamored with Trump and dismissive of the committee and its findings. But elements of the voters, donors and activists that make the three pillars of the party are exhausted too, they say. And they’re growing less willing to let the baggage of the Trump years complicate the future.
“Trump is facing an important onslaught of negative facts with these hearings and there is no real defense. He has no friendly members on the committee and there aren’t facts to put in front of the public to make any of this sound less bad,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor.
While Eberhart suspected that the hearings were hardening Trump’s core supporters, he also noted that one of the former president’s more formidable, potential opponents was benefiting too.
“Ron DeSantis,” he said of the Florida governor, “is lying in wait, sharpening his knives.”
In some pockets of DeSantis land, these sentiments are shared. The governor’s advisers do not see the January 6 hearings as a “nail in the coffin” for Trump, but rather another in a line of distractions that are exhausting the sort of top-line Republican money that could be influential to a potential 2024 Trump-DeSantis primary clash.
“I think the January 6 hearings are continuation of the exhausting circus that surrounds Trump,” said a close DeSantis adviser granted anonymity to speak freely. “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.”
“It’s a shitshow,” the person continued. “Some donors are getting sick of the shitshow.”
Another Republican consultant familiar with DeSantis’ thinking says the governor views the Jan. 6 hearings as a way to eventually get Trump indicted.
“That’s where his head is at. He thinks the goal here is to get main justice to go after him,” the consultant said. “That’s what Ron thinks this is all about.”’
The person, however, stressed that DeSantis’ focus is much more on running up the score in his reelection bid. DeSantis, who is already on pace to break state-level Florida fundraising records and is seen as a heavy favorite to win reelection, wants to win by more than the 3.2 points Trump won the state by in 2020. POLITICO reported last week that DeSantis also has no interest in seeking Trump’s endorsement for his reelection bid, another signal he does not see his political fate tethered to the former president who helped make him.
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