The Jan. 6 hearings are having a major impact.
Could Donald Trump’s political influence be fading?
Some commentators say that the former president’s reputation — and possibly his popularity – are taking a hit during the bombshell hearings investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and the most damning indictments of Trump have even raised questions about his legal culpability.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified last week that Trump knew many of the rioters on that day were carrying weapons, but he showed no concern because he didn’t see them as a threat to himself. She also told lawmakers that the then-president tried to grab the presidential limousine’s steering wheel and lunged for his Secret Service agent because he wanted to go to the Capitol.
Though Trump has dismissed Hutchinson’s testimony, some of those close to him have reportedly grown concerned about the consequences of these hearings, especially when it comes to the ballot box. After all, this isn’t the only probe he’s facing: Trump and his allies are also dealing with other investigations, including one that’s heating up in Georgia about whether Trump’s campaign tried to influence the vote count there in 2020.
These very serious issues will be significant factors in Trump’s political future. Here’s what we know.
Will Trump run again?
Trump has long hinted at making another presidential bid in 2024, and according to a recent New York Times report, he’s planning to make his candidacy official as soon as this month in hopes that such an early start could help him get ahead of some of these potentially damning investigations.
But his team is still reportedly weighing the decision carefully, with some urging him to take his time. As the Times notes, an early announcement would mean more constraints on his ability to raise money (according to federal campaign finance laws, there’s a $2,900-per-person donation cap for primaries). There’s also concerns that the news could derail the midterms by giving Democrats the ammunition they need to motivate voters to turn out and vote against Republican candidates who could be framed as a representation of Trump.
What are voters saying?
According to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, Trump has a 50 percent unfavorable rating among voters nationwide, compared to a 42 percent favorability rating.
Even though he boasts an 80 percent approval among Republican voters, it’s hard to gauge his power and influence even within his own party, as seen in the recent primary elections in California, Iowa, Mississippi, and South Dakota. Though he backed 17 candidates in these races, most of these candidates, like California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, were likely to win even without Trump’s help, while others were rejected outright.
“There’s some evidence that some Republican voters are trying to slow-walk from Donald Trump,” Republican strategist Scott Jennings told The New York Times.
Who are some other potential GOP presidential candidates?
While many politicos consider a Trump victory to be a foregone conclusion if he tosses his hat back into the ring, some Republicans seem to be keeping their options open in case the former president loses steam. In fact, a number of Republican senators — including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who have previously run for president — are laying the groundwork to make a bid for the Republican nomination in 2024. Other potential hopefuls also reportedly include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence.
But out of all of the potential hopefuls, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to be Trump’s most serious competition so far. Recent polls show DeSantis beating the former president in New Hampshire in a head-to-head match-up — and trailing Trump by only nine points nationwide.
“The nomination is going to be very wide open, I think. I don’t see him sustaining his position as a majority leader of the party even if he wants to into 2024,” former Republican governor of New Hampshire Judd Gregg told The Hill. “There are too many people out there who want to run for president.”