Think of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, as he becomes increasingly tangled up in Donald Trump this week.
McCarthy sparked a political uproar on Tuesday when he admitted to not knowing whether Mr. Trump is the strongest Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election. However, Mr. McCarthy quickly changed his mind, telling Breitbart News that "Trump is stronger today than in 2016".
Although the Speaker's criticism was fairly mild, the response from Trump backers was anything but. Bryan Lanza, a former Trump staff member who is still close to the former president, claims that "McCarthy stepped in it.". "[McCarthy] can't risk losing his Speakership by coming across as being too soft on Trump. ".
There are others who disagree with Mr. Trump in addition to Mr. McCarthy. Numerous party leaders are concerned that Mr. Trump will secure the nomination but drop out of the race for president. They think he has far too many flaws. They would adore the opportunity to present a rival, someone who the country's swing voters might favor.
That alternative doesn't seem likely right now, though. In fact, a lot about Trump's influence over his party is revealed by McCarthy's quick, transparent clean-up effort.
Mr. Trump is still the clear favorite to win his party's nomination for president, despite being twice indicted, beset by scandals and active legal investigations, and facing numerous opponents. He now has 51% of Republican voters' support, up from 46% in April, according to an NBC News poll released this week.
Here are three things that assist in explaining what is occurring:.
In addition to being found guilty of sexual assault, Donald Trump is also facing charges under the Espionage Act for maintaining classified information after leaving the White House. His alleged payments to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign are also the subject of charges in New York.
All of those incidents have never occurred before. Additionally, additional charges may be brought against him for his alleged attempts to rig the Georgian election as well as his participation in the Capitol riot on January 6. That is a lot of legal trouble. .
But as he accrues more legal troubles, Mr. Trump can convince his supporters that he is the victim of a political vendetta. Former RNC chairman Michael Steele, who is now a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, told me that the indictments "helped him with the base and helped him with fundraising.". He continues, "And his poll numbers will go up again when the indictment comes out of Georgia.".
This could, of course, change during a general election campaign if swing voters decide they don't want to back a candidate who is accused of committing crimes.
More than a dozen Republicans are currently vying for the presidency. Some are running against Trump, while others are running as an alternative to him. Still others are simply trying to ignore him. According to polls, about 50% of Republican voters don't particularly like the former president, but for the time being, they are split fairly evenly between all those other candidates. Divide and conquer was a productive Trump strategy in 2016, and it appears to be doing so once more.
However, Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who was tipped to be Trump's main rival, is currently experiencing a decline in support rather than an increase. There is no doubt in Republican circles that Mr. DeSantis has been a weak candidate; the more people interact with him on the campaign trail, the less favorable their opinion of him becomes. Mr. Steele's assessment is that "none of the other candidates matter.". He claims that removing Trump from the nomination would require a supernatural event.
Ronald Reagan's upbeat Morning in America campaign is no longer in effect. This Republican Party is looking for someone who will stand up for them on social issues like abortion and transgender rights and who isn't afraid to challenge the Republican establishment. Donald Trump, who physically challenged and defeated another billionaire in a wrestling match in 2007, is the best fighter there is. Like Mr. Trump, no other candidate grabs the public's attention and incites hostility.
Keep in mind that he had a meager 6 percent support among Republicans at this point in the 2016 election campaign. He pushed the opposing candidates off the stage, though, rally after rally and debate after debate. He achieved this by launching a ferocious attack against them (using language that may have occasionally felt like punches) and by claiming to share their rage over the state of the country with voters.
Still, Mr. Trump's rivals keep hoping that primary voters will grow tired of the commotion surrounding the former president or that his legal issues will make him look bad, which will in turn help them look good.
The Trump camp is unconcerned about that. Mr. Lanza, a former member of Trump's staff, asserts with certainty that "no one is beating Trump.". "I assume everyone who is still running is applying for a position in the Cabinet [in a Trump White House].