The big question surrounding the Jan. 6 congressional hearings is whether former President Donald Trump can survive politically or if they will just push him into running for another White House term.
Trump — depending on your political viewpoint — has been the clear star or villain of the hearings so far, with Democrats obsessed with uncovering enough evidence to charge him criminally for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and torching his political future.
But it’s a double-edged sword, because elevating Trump also increases his clout and stature among his supporters.
The hearings could also make Trump even more determined to run again. The former president is such an egomaniac he wants to be vindicated and seek revenge, and winning another term is the best way to do that.
Some Democrats, in fact, may want to run against Trump more than a newcomer like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The second day of the hearings took a decidedly political turn on Monday, with Democrats spending more time defending the election process than vilifying Trump.
Democrats also made a shocking revelation that Trump raised money off his claims that the election was stolen, claiming the money was for fighting election fraud. Wow, what a blockbuster.
“So not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off,” U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said. “Donors deserve to know where their funds are really going. They deserve better than what President Trump and his team did.”
Is that illegal? Or just politics as usual? Democrats and their affiliate groups are raising just as much money off the hearings as Trump.
Where does a bloviating politician end and criminal activity begin? How many politicians have claimed the election was stolen? Plenty over the years. But they never faced a criminal probe.
And what’s the political fallout so far?
Over the last few days, Democrats on the Jan. 6 panel have tried repeatedly to convince Americans watching and federal investigators that there’s enough evidence to charge Trump.
One of the Democrats’ goals is to demonize all Republicans in hopes that it will soften what looks like a Republican red wave in the November midterm elections.
But will this be enough to turn attention away from Biden’s catastrophic presidency?
Not so far.
Inflation and the tanking economy remain the dominant issues on the minds of most Americans, and those issues are what’s causing President Biden’s approval ratings to tank.
Democrats want voters to be sitting around the kitchen table talking about the hearings, but are viewers really sitting around talking about how much bread and milk cost?
Biden is less popular than Trump was at this stage of his presidency, and no amount of televised hearings is going to change that.
— Joe Battenfeld is a veteran Boston Herald political columnist and multimedia reporter.