May 22, 2024
There's a sense of anxiety quietly growing among many rank-and-file Republican lawmakers and top Capitol Hill aides about how former President Donald Trump's legal troubles could sour GOP prospects in the midterm and 2024 general elections.

There’s a sense of anxiety quietly growing among many rank-and-file Republican lawmakers and top Capitol Hill aides about how former President Donald Trump’s legal troubles could sour GOP prospects in the midterm and 2024 general elections.

The sentiment notably does not mesh with the public face put on by top party officials and campaigning candidates, who assert that the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago will drive Republican turnout and ostensibly push many independents to vote red in purple districts.


“It’s a base motivator, but as you travel and you talk to people about the things that we talk about in DC,” one senior Republican campaign official told the Washington Examiner, “they’re not the conversations that we hear people having in Michigan or Nevada.”

“Our base was really fired up about what happened, and I think that maybe in all the Congress, people understand the situation differently, but mostly out in the field and out in states, people ask, ‘How could you do that to a former president?’ And you still haven’t come out and explained why you did it,” a second GOP official added.

Still, multiple sitting GOP lawmakers tell the Washington Examiner that the Department of Justice‘s espionage investigation takes the focus off President Joe Biden’s “dismal economic record” and allows him to essentially rerun his 2020 campaign.

“The Democrats are loving the raid, even swing districts, because there are two things that the Democrats want to run on in this midterm: abortion and Republicans,” one sitting Republican stated. “The alternative is terrifying, the ultra-MAGA. You see these ‘threats to democracy’ arguments — those are the two frames. Everything that’s in those two boxes is good for the Democrats. Everything that’s not is pretty much bad for them, so the raid on Trump helps keep the national discussion in one of those two boxes.”

A second GOP lawmaker thought Trump’s legal battles provide “energy for both parties” yet was concerned about “Trump Derangement Syndrome” again motivating Democrats to turn out in historic numbers.

Yet another GOP lawmaker suggested that the media’s coverage of Trump could actually coalesce Republican support around him as the 2024 nominee but believes that will ultimately benefit Biden’s own reelection chances.

“So far, Joe Biden is only showing us that he can really beat Democrats in South Carolina and Trump in a general election. That’s about all Joe Biden has shown me that he’s capable of, and so Biden would love to run it back [against Trump] as opposed to DeSantis,” they said.

“I don’t think a clear field is good for Trump. I think that for Trump to win this general election, He needs a crowded, raucous primary that he moves through again and, you know, shows his winning ways. I think that you’re definitely going to see a Republican primary that’s going to have Trump, Larry Hogan, Chris Sununu, you know, Nikki Haley,” that lawmaker continued. “All those people take from … DeSantis is the point. If you’re watching that unfold and you’re DeSantis today — you might be up against Trump, but you’re never going to get him heads up. You’re going to get him in this big old crowded field, and every single one of those people take from DeSantis, not [Trump].”

Though Biden and the White House have sought to deflect any questions about the FBI raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home to the DOJ, Biden and other Democratic lawmakers have slowly cranked up their campaign rhetoric against “ultra-MAGA” Republicans.

Biden has delivered multiple campaign-style speeches, including prime-time televised remarks at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, casting Trump and his allies as legitimate threats to democracy.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the DOJ’s investigation of Trump is emboldening his supporters. Karoline Leavitt, the 25-year-old former Trump White House press staffer and Republican nominee for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, told the Washington Examiner that she found the Mar-a-Lago raid to be a top issue in voters’ minds during her primary campaign.

“From the FBI raiding former President Trump’s home to the IRS hiring 87,000 new agents to the Department of Justice labeling moms and dads as domestic terrorists,” she said in a statement, “the Biden administration has been a total disaster, focused more on empowering bureaucrats in D.C. than helping the American people. When elected to Congress, I look forward to providing more oversight into this administration and digging for truth on their actions that have led to the energy, immigration, and economic crises we face.”

Another sitting GOP lawmaker also told the Washington Examiner that the “timing” of the Trump raid will prove “horrible” for Democrats.

“It has ignited our base and has made even independents question the incredible bias at the [FBI]. Everybody sees it now, and with whistleblowers coming to Jim Jordan left and right and him so articulate in the news, this is really bad for the Democrats,” that person said. “Anytime you draw comparisons between the way Hillary was treated and now the way he’s treated — I had it on top of the bulls*** with the FISA court and the Russia collusion story — even some Democrats are like, ‘This isn’t right.’”

Polling on the issue, meanwhile, would seem to favor Democrats.

One sampling published Sunday by NBC News found Democrats and their Republican counterparts tied at 46% apiece on generic ballots, erasing Democrats’ 2-point deficit from earlier in the summer. A similar poll from Fox News published in mid-September saw Democrats take a 3-point lead over Republicans on generic ballots (44%-41%), with 50% of respondents listing the “future of American democracy” as one of their top issues.


Trump is currently polling at his lowest levels since April 2021, with just 34% holding favorable views of the former president in a poll published Monday. Meanwhile, Biden’s own approvals have slowly ticked up since July, buoyed in large part by a series of legislative wins and steadily declining gas prices. The RealClearPolitics polling average showed Biden’s approval approaching 43% on Tuesday, his highest marks since Russia invaded Ukraine.

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