The Jan. 6 hearings have been more effective than many of us thought, and the big winner is… Ron DeSantis.
Yes, that's my honest takeaway after monitoring public opinion, as well as shifts on the political right.
I was struck recently by an Associated Press report about Donald Trump's first appearance since the hearings began. It described an Illinois conservative named Pam Roehl who showed up at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference wearing a red Trump baseball cap and a 'Trump 2020" necklace. According to AP, Roehl still supports Trump, "but increasingly finds herself in the minority among friends who have moved on, discarding their bumper stickers and embracing DeSantis."
While anecdotal, this report was buttressed by a new Granite State Poll showing DeSantis narrowly leading Trump among likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire.
Your Grandkids Will Care About the Jan. 6 Hearings, Even if You Don't
So what does this poll have to do with the Jan. 6 hearings? It's worth noting that the first three Jan. 6 hearings took place on June 9, 13, and 16; the Granite State poll was conducted from June 16 to 20.
Now, this is just one poll, and it could be an outlier. But the results reinforce a lot of anecdotal evidence, and comport with recent political developments. DeSantis has amassed an impressive streak of successes. Meanwhile, Trump's power in the GOP, as evidenced by his spotty endorsement record, has slowly eroded since leaving the White House.
The Jan. 6 hearings are yet another data point to remind Republican voters that Trump is yesterday's news. As The New York Times noted, what we are witnessing is "a significant change from October, when a Granite State Poll showed Mr. Trump had support from 43 percent of likely Republican voters; Mr. DeSantis was at 18 percent."
Correlation does not equal causation. Still, it seems reasonable to suspect that the Jan. 6 hearings are among the factors contributing to Trump's slump.
"Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump Republican strategist, has been conducting focus groups of Trump voters since Jan. 6. In her last two, none of the participants wanted Trump to run again-something that hadn't happened before," writes Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times.
If only there were some way Republicans could keep what they like about Trump, but get someone who is younger, less focused on putting personal vengeance ahead of scoring wins, and with less baggage…
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the DeSantis Effect at work. If Trump voters don't want Trump to run, the person who will benefit the most from this is not Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Mike Pence, or the Democrats-it's Ron DeSantis.
We live in a polarized America where many of us have already chosen tribes. Democrats already hate Trump and aren't likely to be persuaded by any new evidence. Likewise, Republicans (to the extent they are paying attention) aren't going to suddenly conclude that Trump is evil and that they should switch from the red hats to the blue team. They're not ready to repudiate Trump, which (among other things) would require some sort of admission that they were wrong in supporting him. Instead, a subtler shift is occurring. They are moving on.
Just as a recent CBS News montage shows Georgia primary voters saying how much they love Trump (before saying they will ignore his primary endorsements), some Republican voters have decided that they love Trump but that DeSantis is the future of the party.
Ron DeSantis Isn't a Tough Guy. He's Just Another Cowardly Bully.
The usual caveats apply: It's early. When it's this far out from an election, polls and pundits have a lousy track record of predicting winners. To be the GOP nominee, DeSantis (probably) has to get re-elected governor of Florida this November. Then, he needs to find a way to keep a jealous Trump from destroying him. What's more, it's unclear whether DeSantis's skillset would lend itself to the retail politics that most nominees have to endure to win in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Numerous "ifs" could derail him between now and 2024.
Still, DeSantis has had one heck of a year or so. For those of us who view Trump as a uniquely dangerous threat to liberal democracy, this is good news.
At the same time, it's also a sign of how Americans are obsessed with the new. We fetishize youth. We get bored.
In many ways, this behavior isn't great. But when it comes to disposing of Trump, should that happen, we might be thankful for modern America's tendency toward the disposable.
There will be plenty of time to debate whether Ron DeSantis constitutes a downgrade, an upgrade, or a lateral move for Republicans. But if you're a supporter of his, you can thank the fickle nature of America's voters-and the Jan. 6 Committee.
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