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As Jan. 6 hearings portray an enraged Trump, DeSantis may be biggest winner

World Jun 30, 2022 09:07PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo

By Joseph Ax and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -This week's testimony at congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol assault portrayed an enraged Donald Trump throwing food against a White House wall, voicing support for threats against his vice president, and dismissing the news that some of his supporters had come armed with rifles.

Democrats hope the revelations will remind voters why they didn't reelect the former president in 2020. But the biggest political beneficiary may be Trump's fellow Republican, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his top potential rival for the 2024 presidential nomination.

Neither Trump nor DeSantis has yet declared a 2024 run for the White House, the first nominating contests are more than 18 months away, and the nation still needs to get through the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will determine control of Congress for the next two years. Trump has proven remarkably resistant to political damage and remains his party's most popular figure.

But still, there are signs that DeSantis' star is rising.

Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor, estimated three-quarters of roughly 150 fellow donors with whom he regularly interacts backed Trump six months ago, with a quarter going for DeSantis. Now, the balance has shifted: about two-thirds want DeSantis as the 2024 nominee.

"The donor class is ready for something new," said Eberhart, who supports both politicians but says he's much more excited about DeSantis. "And DeSantis feels more fresh and more calibrated than Trump. He's easier to defend, he's less likely to embarrass, and he's got the momentum."

DeSantis has emerged as a fundraising giant, with a political war chest similar to Trump's in size. He has raised more than $120 million since winning office in 2018, with recent financial disclosures showing his political accounts had over $110 million in cash in mid-June, with a November reelection campaign ahead.

By comparison, Trump's Save America group - his main political committee - had just over $100 million in cash at the end of May, according to a federal disclosure.

Should DeSantis run for president, federal election rules would bar him from transferring leftover gubernatorial race money to a presidential campaign. He could, however, refund donors and resolicit the money for a White House bid.

EASIER TO 'INCH AWAY'

It remains to be seen whether the Jan. 6 hearings, which have presented evidence that Trump and his inner circle pushed conspiracy theories about voter fraud they knew to be false, will mar Trump's standing among his supporters. The twice-impeached Trump has defied conventional wisdom many times in the face of prior scandals.

In posts on his Truth Social platform on Tuesday, Trump lambasted a former White House aide who testified about his behavior on Jan. 6 and denied her most explosive allegations.

His reaction proved that he recognized how damaging the testimony was, said Douglas Heye, a Republican strategist.

"It's beneficial for anybody who's looking at running for 2024," Heye said. "This is making it easier for Republicans – candidate and voter – to inch away from Trump."

An opinion poll released last week in the state of New Hampshire, traditionally the site of the first presidential primary, showed Trump and DeSantis in a statistical tie among likely Republican voters.

The University of New Hampshire poll found 39% supported DeSantis, with 37% backing Trump. That's a dramatic swing from October, when Trump had double DeSantis' support.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is weighing a 2024 campaign after breaking with Trump following the Capitol riot, was in a distant third at 9%.

There have been other signals suggesting Trump's power over Republican voters is not absolute. He has seen mixed results for his most high-profile endorsements in key swing states during this year's midterm elections.

Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich said Trump was in a "stronger position" than ever. "The American people remain hungry for his leadership," Budowich said.

A DeSantis spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis, 43, owes his political rise in part to Trump, who endorsed him for governor in 2018 when DeSantis was a relatively obscure congressman. Trump's backing helped propel DeSantis to an upset victory in the Republican primary, and he edged out a scandal-damaged Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, that November.

After the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, DeSantis was aggressively skeptical on containment policies, relaxing restrictions on businesses and schools in defiance of federal guidelines and overruling local officials who sought to preserve mask mandates.

He has also enacted numerous conservative bills with the help of the Republican-controlled legislature, including an election "police force" dedicated to investigating voter fraud, new voting limits, and a ban on teachers discussing gender identity with young children – decried by critics as the "don't say gay" law.

In an unprecedented move, he effectively took over the redistricting process from Republican lawmakers, vetoing their congressional map and substituting his own proposal that eliminated two majority-Black districts while delivering four additional seats to Republicans.

"He's taking on every culture war fight that he can to demonstrate to the base that he's a fighter," Heye said.

As Jan. 6 hearings portray an enraged Trump, DeSantis may be biggest winner
 

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Comments (10)
gab nea
gab nea Jul 04, 2022 6:15PM ET
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trump is a joke, desantis is a bigger one!
Forex Harbingers
ForexHarbingers Jul 02, 2022 3:13PM ET
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Cant you just feel the irrational emotions pouring out? Prepare for the biggest and longest lasting temper tantrum we have every seen.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jul 02, 2022 3:13PM ET
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Reminds me of that uncle who went yo his grave thinking Richard Nixon was a great president.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Jun 30, 2022 11:32PM ET
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From what I’ve heard the Democrat inquisition isn’t going that great. Much of the biggest testimony was based on hearsay, which never flys in a court of law, and is even worse for a hearing steeped in political bias.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 11:32PM ET
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Of all the Republican officials who have testified before the committee and presented documents demonstrating Team Trump's criminality, who did you find the most convincing?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 11:32PM ET
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Nothing? That's what I thought. Another know-nothing kook who would rather avoid reality than face the prospect of having to change her mind.
Zeb Fullmer
Zeb Fullmer Jun 30, 2022 6:01PM ET
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the only way trump wins 2024 is if he runs against Biden. Biden will not make it to 2024 therefore DeSantis for 2024.
Chris Cummins
Chris Cummins Jun 30, 2022 6:01PM ET
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Scot House  He lost the popular vote...TWICE! No clue why you think he has a chance now, against anyone.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Jun 30, 2022 6:01PM ET
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Chris Cummins he is biggest cheerleader and faps multiple times a day to trump poster in moms basement
Alan Rice
Alan Rice Jun 30, 2022 1:04PM ET
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Cheny/(and ?? ) in 2024 !!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 1:04PM ET
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Now THAT would be something. She has earned a lot of bipartisan respect as a principled patriot.
Michael Mcdonough
Michael Mcdonough Jun 30, 2022 8:43AM ET
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Cassidy Hutchinson is 25 yrs old…an aide to an aide..another media circus
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 8:43AM ET
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And more patriotism and morality in her little finger than the seditious traitor Trump.
Rick Meyer
Rick Meyer Jun 30, 2022 8:40AM ET
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DeSantis for president!
Rick Meyer
Rick Meyer Jun 30, 2022 8:37AM ET
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witness was a hoax. secret service willing to testify that she is lying. another ploy by democrats to shift focus.good thing America isn't that ignorant.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 8:37AM ET
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Of all the Republicans who have testified before the committee so far, who have you found to be the most compelling?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 8:37AM ET
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Yeah, that's what I thought.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 8:34AM ET
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I know at this moment we are confronting a domestic threat we have never faced before and that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic and he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man. -- Liz Cheney.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 30, 2022 8:34AM ET
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Thanks for reminding me, I have to renew my swamp membership. You should think of joining. In addition to participating in world ******* you get 15% off at Applebee's.
David Bud
David Bud Jun 30, 2022 7:52AM ET
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DeSantis is a giant piece of dog excrement.
 
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