Some conservative voices and donors are looking to move beyond former President Donald Trump in the wake of the FBI’s August raid on Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, viewing it as the latest controversy to distract from making the case against President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
The New York Post argued in a recent editorial that focusing on Trump rather than the Democrats would hurt Republicans in the midterm elections. His rebound in 2024 polls of GOP primary voters could do the same in two years.
“But if the focus is on Trump instead, enraged Democrats will unite, pause their internecine warring while independents will abstain or vote against the GOP,” the editorial board wrote.
“If Republicans want Americans to vote against Biden, they have to campaign against him, not against the FBI or the deep state or on whether Trump had the right to have boxes of classified documents in his closet,” tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. “There is a reason Democrats are eager to keep Trump at the center of the conversation: half of independents say Trump is a major factor in their vote, and they’re breaking 4-1 for the Democrats. Republicans shouldn’t play that game. If they do, they’re cruising for a bruising.”
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which previously condemned Trump for failing to act as the Capitol riot raged, this week urged readers to “ignore Mr. Trump’s attacks” on Republican leadership.
The Mar-a-Lago raid is different from past controversies, a former senior Trump campaign operative said.
“He’s been the Teflon Don and has been able to weather pretty much everything that’s been thrown at him, but will he weather this? Is this the last straw? And if he’s going to go down the rabbit hole, are you going with him?” this person said. “A lot of people are contemplating their futures and the future of the party and whether or not it needs to be in the image of Donald Trump or in the image of America First, which is a movement and not a man.”
Last week, Fox News’s Steve Doocy questioned why the former president kept top secret files at his residence after the Justice Department this week released a bombshell filing from prosecutors that included a photo of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate.
“Part of this is what they’re calling a Trump fatigue, where privately, they’re telling the president, ‘We get it, you’ve been a target since Day One, all you wanted to do was govern the country, we like your policies, we’re with you in spirit, we know you’re getting screwed,’” the operative said. “But it’s a cost-benefit analysis.”
Rather than tick through Trump’s case, some conservative commentators are favoring a wider lens, looking, for instance, at “what the government is capable of doing with regard to overreach,” the person explained, a way to get around the subject while still covering the issue.
Trump would prefer they use his name, but “they are sick of every time they turn around, having to defend him,” the source said.
Another source speculated that media giant Rupert Murdoch, under whose News Corp company fall the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News, is eager for a Republican alternative to Trump because he fears the former president could lose.
The New York Post’s board, which endorsed Trump in 2020, has several times described him as “unworthy” and touted as viable Republican alternatives to Trump possible 2024 presidential hopefuls such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“It’s time for Republicans to move on,” the board said in June.
The shift has drawn pushback from supporters who say Republicans trying to steer the party in a new direction fail to understand the former president’s appeal.
“This is the new version of the 2014 Never Trump activists,” said conservative radio host John Fredericks of Republicans looking to turn the page on the former president. “We’ve got billionaires meeting with [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis to give him money to stop Trump.”
He said Wall Street’s “gangster banksters” don’t understand Trump’s movement.
“They don’t understand that getting out of these foreign wars, and getting back to caring for our own people, working class Americans, are what matters,” he said. “They want to get back to the days where they can argue about what percentage a tax cut should be for somebody making over $150,000.”
Fredericks continued: “Trump’s going to win. Why? Because he doesn’t talk to Wall Street hedge fund managers with billion-dollar PACs. He talks to the guy punching a clock.”
Trump faces headwinds on that path, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll published on Thursday.
While 68% of voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction and listed the economy and inflation among their top concerns, areas they said Republicans were better equipped to handle, they remain disinclined toward a second Trump term.
If the 2024 election were held today with Biden and Trump as candidates, voters would reelect Biden with 50% of the vote, compared to 44% for Trump, according to the poll.
The nationwide survey of 1,313 registered voters was conducted Aug. 17-25.
Some of Trump’s loudest detractors are former admirers.
In a recent podcast epsiode titled “Trump’s Done,” Ann Coulter, author of the 2016 book In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! downplayed Trump’s “movement” and argued the Republican base has begun to move on.
“It’s safe to come back, and it’s safe for Republicans to stand up and run without Donald Trump,” she said.