Wednesday, June 08, 2022


Jennifer Rubin wrote yesterday that the January 6 hearings are probably excellent news for Ron DeSantis:
To the extent they pump up Democrats, make it harder for Trump sycophants to keep defending the “big lie,” induce the media to treat Trump as a criminal suspect and push prosecutors in the direction of indicting him, DeSantis would clearly be the beneficiary — and he wouldn’t even need to comment on the proceedings....

Over time, DeSantis can make his case that Democrats won’t be able to hang Jan. 6 around his neck and that by passing on Trump as the next presidential nominee, the party can finally put the 2020 election behind it. And watching Trump dive back into his obsessive denial of the 2020 results might just remind enough Republicans they are sick of defending the indefensible.
Rubin might have a point. DeSantis just beat Trump in the Western Conservative Summit's straw poll for the second year in a row, so Republicans really might be looking for a fresh face. On the other hand, Morning Consult just polled the 2024 race and Trump clobbered DeSantis, 51% to 18%. (Mike Pence was at 12%. No one else had more than 4%.)

Trump might be undergoing a slow fade, though it's not clear. If so, the hearings might accelerate that trend -- or they might have the opposite effect. Think of this as a third impeachment of Trump. On October 31, 2019, the day the House of Representatives voted for public hearings on the Ukraine scandal, Trump's job approval was 41.1% in the FiveThirtyEight average, while his disapproval was 54.1% -- a 13-point gap. By February 6, 2020, the day after his acquittal in the Senate, that 13-point gap had shrunk to 7.9 points. In the aftermath of January 6, Trump left office with a job approval gap of nearly 20 points (38.6% approval, 57.9% disapproval). But his personal approval began to improve a couple of months after his second acquittal -- he's still in negative territory, but he's half as unpopular as he was just after 1/6. (And we know that he won the Electoral College in 2016, and nearly won it in 2020, with similar numbers.)

Republicans might rally around Trump during these hearings, the way, according to public opinion polls, Democrats (and others) rallied around Bill Clinton when he was impeached. Or, yes, maybe they'll finally conclude that he's not worth the trouble. But I have my doubts. First, it's hard to imagine that the hearings, or anything short of an actual indictment, will "induce the media to treat Trump as a criminal suspect." We know the press will treat this as a sporting event -- who's winning, who's losing? -- and that the answer is likely to be "Trump is winning." Everything changes, of course, if Trump is indicted -- but how likely is that? As for whether it's tiresome for the party to keep defending the Big Lie, the polls right now suggest it's not much of a burden.

In recent months, DeSantis has been able to claim the coveted title of Republican Most Hated by Democrats. These hearings might place Trump in the #1 spot once again. That would be very bad news for DeSantis.

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