By Ashok Nilakantan
New York, July 23 : Former US President Donald Trump’s “Glass Jaw” may have been exposed and dented by the eight hearings of the congressional committee on the January 6, 2021 Capitol Hill riot, but most Republicans believe still that his policies are right for the country but his personality might not be for the high office and the search for an alternative candidate within the party might be really tough, says TIME magazine.
Making this analysis, TIME magazine writer analyst Brian Bennet says that the eighth hearing of the Senate Select Committee could have dented his image and quoting an unnamed official further added: “Trump’s Glass Jaw may have been exposed, dented and donors may be wary of funding his 2024 presidential run.”
The eighth hearing hearing has considerably damaged Trump’s image before a prime time audience of 20 million plus that showed explosive footage of the former leader’s behaviour on January 6, 2021 and the stars witnesses lined up like press aide Sarah Mathews and deputy national security advisor Mathew Pottinger who said they resigned immediately after they found Trump was not listening to any White House staff to quell the riotous mob, TIME said in its web edition.
Most Republicans feel Trump’s policies are the right ones for America but a candidate like him may not be the right choice for the Oval Office after the exposures and testimonies in the hearings.
Who is the alternative for Trump, who is still making his 3rd bid for the presidency to be nominated by the party for the 2024 presidential run, the magazine says indicating that his donors may be wary of funding his campaign trail with the kind of dents the eight hearings have made on his personality.
Republicans still supporting Trump were a target audience for all eight of the committee’s recent hearings. But on Thursday night, Representative Liz Cheney used her closing remarks to appeal to that group directly.
“The case against Donald Trump in these hearings is not made by witnesses who were his political enemies,” said Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and the committee’s vice chair.
“It is instead a series of confessions by Donald Trump’s own appointees, his own friends, his own campaign officials, people who worked for him for years, and his own family.”
The hearing on Thursday detailed Trump’s repeated refusal to quell the deadly mob, even when he knew that some of them were armed and that former Vice President Mike Pence’s life was in danger.
Cheney suggested the former President’s supporters should view his behavior related to that day as disqualifying for future office as many of Trump’s former allies do.
“Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6th ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?” she asked.
“A lot more Republicans today than before the hearings have started to say, ‘No, I think we can find someone who has less baggage, who will do the same kinds of things that I want’,” says Whit Ayers, a Republican pollster and political consultant who appears to go ahead with Trump’s policies but not Trump as a personality.
Thursday night’s hearing included new searing moments of Trump’s disinterest in helping end the violence unfolding on Capitol Hill.
Video showed how he ad-libbed support for the rioters while recording a video message in the late afternoon of January 6, as his supporters continued to engage in hand-to-hand combat with police at the Capitol. Trump told them to “go home” but also validated their behavior by saying the election was “stolen” and calling the violent mob “very special” and saying “we love you”.
The committee also showed video outtakes from January 7, when Trump recorded a video message that aides had scripted to tell the public he knew the election had ended. He refused to go that far.
“I don’t want to say the election is over,” Trump says to aides in the room, including his daughter, Ivanka Trump. “I just want to say that Congress has certified the results without saying the election’s over, OK?”
Earlier in the hearing, investigators played video footage and radio transmissions showing Pence’s Secret Service detail frantically trying to find a clear path to evacuate him from a room near the Senate Chamber as a violent mob stood off against Capitol Police officers’ steps away.
A national security official who had listened to the radio transmissions that day told the committee that members of Pence’s security detail felt they were in such life-threatening danger, that they passed along messages to tell their loved ones if they didn’t survive.
Ayers says that it’s become “an article of faith” among Republicans that only Democrats are watching the hearings. But even if many Republicans are not watching them, they have not been able to avoid learning about the information coming out of them.
“Much of the testimony is so compelling and so shocking that it seeps into the political water,” Ayers says.
“Does Donald Trump have more of a glass jaw now than people realize?” a former administration official not wishing to be named was quoted by the magazine as saying. The official says the clearest impact on Donald Trump politically can be seen in the Republican Party’s powerful donor base, many of whom have been “rattled” by the barrage of testimony that has cast the White House after the 2020 election as chaotic and him as out of control.
The official says a consistent reaction has been” “Wow, it was more effed up than I realized.” The hearings have also raised questions among some large GOP donors about the polling that suggests Trump would be tough to beat in a Republican primary, and whether it may be masking a broader weariness among his base.
Unlike other Presidents who came from the Congress and Capitol Hill, Trump was a rank outsider, who contested for the post three times and was always on the front pages of the media for 30 years on despite not being in politics.
Thursday’s hearing continued the drumbeat of revelations over six weeks of testimony. Yet none of it so far has shown to markedly dent Trump’s approval ratings among Republican voters, which remains firmly in the mid-80s. And whenever the former President holds a public appearance, he still manages to draw supporters by the thousands.
In other words, he remains the biggest star in his party by a long shot, Bennet says in his article.
And yet, the hearings appear to have inflicted some political damage on Trump. Republican strategists are seeing signs that his grip on the party is easing slightly. While polling data confirms Republican voters still like Trump, it also shows that more of them are now open to backing a different presidential candidate for 2024, even if Trump chooses to throw his hat in the ring for a third time.
A different former aide to Trump said that the hearings were unlikely to have changed many minds among Republicans. “I don’t think it moved anybody,” the former aide said. “Donald Trump lived his life for 30 years on the pages of the New York tabloids before he ever ran for office. Everybody knew who he was. We knew the bargain.”
But the former aide acknowledged that some Republicans are looking for a candidate who is not Trump.
“There’s a segment of people who would be like, ‘If we could get Trump policies without the drama, I would take that’,” says the former aide. But there is concern that no candidate who fits that mold could win an election. Few potential Republican challengers have ever had to go head-to-head against Trump and face the type of withering political attacks Trump built his career on.
The hearings began on June 9. Surveys released at the beginning of the month and on June 29 from Morning Consult/Politico found Trump’s support in 2024 from Republican voters held steady at 53 per cent. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s support over those two surveys grew, from 16 per cent to 22 per cent. The same late-June poll found 51 per cent of Republican voters think Trump should continue to play a “major role” in theparty, down from 60 per cent in mid-May, before the hearings began.
For some former Trump supporters, the evidence presented by the committee has been impossible to ignore. Jeff Leach, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives representing part of Collins County in the outskirts of Dallas, was a supporter of Trump throughout his presidency. On Twitter Thursday evening, he revealed he reached a “turning point” when he saw how Trump turned on his deputy Pence, who had been a “fiercely loyal” vice president. “That was THE moment for me,” Leach wrote, adding: “we Republicans need someone else running for President in 2024.”
The committee’s work isn’t done. The January 6 committee will spend August “pursuing emerging new information on multiple fronts,” Liz Cheney, vice chair of the senate select committee said. A Republican from Wyoming who is facing party ire for opposing Trump and stands the chance of losing her seat to a Trump nominated party member in the November 8 elections for house of reps this year. She pointed out that the committee has repeatedly succeeded in court in overcoming immunity and executive privilege claims. New witnesses have come forward, she added, and more information is coming in.
“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued and the dam has begun to break,” Cheney said.
Shifting perceptions of Trump’s actions around January 6, and the possibility that he may be prosecuted for it, have colored discussions over whether he should run again, and, if so, when he should announce. As the Republican Party works to leverage Joe Biden’s dismal approval ratings into a takeover of the House and maybe even the Senate, Trump could throw a wrench in those plans by announcing before the mid-terms, as he’s repeatedly hinted, he might, the magazine said “The Republican’s best case is to make the midterms a referendum on the Biden Administration’s leadership and the Democrats’ leadership,” Bennet quoted Ayers as saying.
“But if Donald Trump announces before the midterms, it allows the Democrats to make it more of a choice, and take some of the focus away from the failures of the Biden administration ( searing inflation and soaring gas prices and the rock bottom job approval ratings for Joe Biden.”
Such a shift “would certainly help the Democrats”, Ayers is quoted by Bennet as saying.
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