Maybe not “crushed.” Trump’s endorsement surely did drive a few votes on the margins towards Hageman — but also towards Cheney on the other side.
But I was surprised to see some MAGA fans online today scoffing at this result, as if it must have been manufactured by some anti-Trump pollster to make his endorsements seem less powerful than they are.
His support is important in certain circumstances, no question. When you’re a little-known newbie candidate, as J.D. Vance was in Ohio, the Trump seal of approval can land you on Republicans’ collective radar in an instant in a way few other things can. Vance probably loses that primary without Trump’s support. Likewise, if you’re a candidate who’s suspected of secret RINOism, as Mehmet Oz was (and is) in Pennsylvania, Trump’s endorsement can help you consolidate skeptical populist voters. It’s de facto permission from the Great MAGA King to the base to support someone about whom they might have doubts. Without Trump’s support there, there’s a chance Oz would have finished third behind Dave McCormick and Kathy Barnette.
No one’s claiming that his endorsement doesn’t matter. But in a primary in the reddest state in the country, where the incumbent has spent the past 18 months alienating the majority of voters in her party in ostentatious ways, Trump’s official support for Cheney opponent Harriet Hageman just isn’t going to matter much. His endorsement is most effective when there’s some doubt about which candidate in a field he favors, as there was in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Wyoming, there’d be zero doubt as to whom he prefers between Hageman and Cheney even if he never spoke a word about the race. His interest would be clear even if his formal support wasn’t.
The die was cast for Cheney last year when she declared that Trump was unfit for office and that she’d do everything in her power to block his return to the presidency. Everything else since then has been a detail. Inasmuch as her work for the January 6 committee changed anything, it did so simply by broadcasting her message to the widest possible base of primary voters back home. She was cooked without Trump ever needing to turn up the heat.
The data mentioned here by the Casper Star Tribune comes from the same poll that found Hageman leading 52/30 this past weekend:
Only 30% of people who plan to vote in the Wyoming Republican Primary next month say the Trump endorsement makes them more likely to vote for Hageman, the poll found. In comparison, 26% say it makes them less likely to vote for Trump’s pick, while 44% indicated it has no effect on their decision.
“They’re voting against Cheney to vote against Cheney, not because Trump told them to vote against Cheney,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon, the polling company that performed the survey for the Star-Tribune…
Mark Hladik, who’s lived in Wyoming for 42 years, said that the “top, top” reason he’s not voting for Cheney is because she “betrayed” Trump. But at the same time, Hladik says Trump’s endorsement of Hageman “didn’t influence it at all.”
She’s not just a RINO, she’s the foremost RINO in America according to the Trump-era definition that equates being a Republican with loyalty to him rather than to conservative policy preferences. Not a great fit for the most Republican state in the union. She’s toast.
But let me ask again a question I asked last night. Is her service on the January 6 committee working? That is, is it accomplishing Cheney’s goal of pushing Trump farther away from a second term?
The Star Tribune poll finds him with a favorable rating of 54/32 among Wyoming’s registered Republican voters, which is actually slight worse than Hageman’s rating. That’s … surprising in a state he won by 44 points with nearly 70 percent of the vote two years ago. The lopsidedness of his win might have been driven partly by local dislike for Biden, but many GOP analysts believe that the January 6 hearings really have taken a bite out of Trump. Maybe it’s happened in Wyoming too to some degree despite the animosity towards Cheney there.
Six weeks into the committee’s public hearing schedule, an emerging consensus is forming in Republican Party circles — including in Trump’s orbit — that a significant portion of the rank-and-file may be tiring of the non-stop series of revelations about Trump…
“It is definitely kind of this wet drip of, do you really want to debate the 2020 election again? Do you really want to debate what happened on Jan. 6?” said Bob Vander Plaats, the evangelical leader in Iowa who is influential in primary politics in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. “Frankly, I think what I sense a little bit, even among some deep, deep Trump supporters … there’s a certain exhaustion to it.”…
John Thomas, a Republican strategist who works on House campaigns across the country, said that in recent conversations with state party chairs and Republican activists in numerous states, “almost to the T, and I don’t really care what state it’s in, they all say, ‘Love Trump, love his policies, wish he would just be a kingmaker.’ And that’s really a shift, because six months ago, a year ago, it was, ‘Trump’s got to run again, he’s the only one who can fight the swamp, drive the policy agenda.’”
“It’s not Trump hatred,” Thomas added. “It’s Trump fatigue. I think [the Jan. 6 committee hearings] reminds people to the degree that they’re tuning in that, eh, is this that important of an issue? No. But damn … And then Trump goes on his rants and it’s like, ‘We’re tired of it.’”
His fundraising has slipped a bit, the share of Americans who think he committed a crime has ticked upward, the GOP base seems a bit restless. Not all of that is due to the January 6 hearings — the rise of Ron DeSantis as a viable alternative is huge — but the committee’s findings are another little nudge for righties who yearn for fresh blood in 2024 to demand it. No one has to admit that they agree Trump is unfit for office. All they have to do is grumble about his “baggage” and wonder about “electability,” and the committee’s giving them plenty of reason to do both.
The fact that Trump himself continues to prattle on day after day about the election being stolen makes it that much easier for his critics. It’s anyone’s guess whether the committee’s revelations have done more to create a sense of Trump fatigue than his own social media posts and interviews have. Either way, I think if you went back in time and told Cheney that if she joined the January 6 committee it would mean the end of her political career but also the end of Trump’s political career, she’d take that deal in a heartbeat. That was the tacit bargain she made, and next month she’ll have to pay up her end of it in the primary.