Former President Donald Trump’s brand — the political superstar persona that fills stadiums and upstages the Republican Party — is showing signs of weakening.
In Texas, his preferred pick in a special congressional election was defeated. Analysts are now studying the race to see what it means for the president’s endorsement powers.
In Washington, enough GOP senators ignored his attacks and complaints about a massive infrastructure package to advance the deal. The Republican support gave President Biden a shot at an infrastructure victory that eluded Mr. Trump.
What’s more, the Democratic-led House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack opened with no pro-Trump Republicans present to defend the former president or offer a counter-perspective to charges he fomented the riot.
The trio of setbacks for Mr. Trump took place in the span of a week.
“This may have been Trump’s worst week since leaving the White House,” said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and Trump critic.
He said the Texas race showed the president, who prides himself on picking election winners with his endorsements, made a mistake in backing “a terrible candidate.”
And Mr. Heye said the congressional committee investigation will keep the former president on the defensive in weeks to come.
The proceedings are guaranteed to provide more ammunition for anti-Trumpers who are ready to turn the page on his high-octane, take-no-prisoners style of politics.
Mr. Trump is far from powerless, though.
One potential congressional candidate who’s been meeting with conservative groups said the entire network is paralyzed right now. They’re waiting to see whom Mr. Trump is backing in each race before committing their own money.
Taylor Budowich, who recently became the spokesman for Trump’s PAC Save America, said there’s a reason others await Mr. Trump’s decisions.
“President Trump remains the most consequential leader in American politics. Any suggestion otherwise is wishful thinking that will inevitably be exposed,” he said.
He continues to draw massive crowds to campaign-style events, and his unproven stolen election claims have become a rallying cry for far-right activists. His endorsement is still the most coveted in the GOP ranks and his flirtation with another presidential bid in 2024 overshadows the rest of the potential field.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that whatever the setbacks, there is little evidence Mr. Trump’s troops are deserting him.
The congressional investigation, he said, isn’t likely to change Trump supporters’ minds about the president, the election outcome or the events of Jan. 6.
The Texas congressional race, Mr. Murray said, could also be seen through a positive lens: Susan Wright, the candidate Mr. Trump endorsed, came within 6 points of winning the runoff after running a “non-campaign.”
“The media environment this week has been rough on Trump, but I don’t see anything that suggests to me the underlying fundamentals in his support has shifted in any appreciable amount,” Mr. Murray said.
Mr. Trump is trying to defy history, which usually relegates one-term presidents to political afterthoughts.
His departure from office, though, was anything but normal.
Mr. Trump survived a post-office impeachment trial in the Senate. Despite having his social media presence erased, he found his voice through emailed statements that are reported word-for-word by the press, helping him maintain his status as the Republican top dog.
Those email statements did not succeed in derailing the infrastructure deal as Mr. Trump carped repeatedly from the sidelines.
He labeled the agreement between Mr. Biden, Senate Democrats and a group of Republicans “terrible” and said it “makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb.” He also threatened primary challenges against Republicans that backed the proposal.
Nonetheless, 17 Republicans — including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — voted to begin debating the proposal in the Senate.
Adding to the sting: Four of the Republicans that helped carve out the deal — Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — were among the lawmakers who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his second impeachment trial.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another top Trump target, also voted in favor of advancing the proposal.
Mr. Trump responded in frustration.
“Under the weak leadership of Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans continue to lose. He lost Arizona, he lost Georgia, he ignored Election Fraud and he doesn’t fight,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Now he’s giving Democrats everything they want and getting nothing in return. No deal is better than a bad deal.”
He added: “RINOs are ruining America, right alongside Communist Democrats.”
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