For Some G.O.P. Voters, Fatigue Slows the Rush to Defend Trump

Republican officials almost unanimously rallied around Donald J. Trump after his indictment, but the actual G.O.P. voters who will render a verdict on his political future next year weren’t nearly as solidly behind him.

Some previous Trump voters said the indictment, the first ever of a former president, was the latest shattering of norms in a ledger already stuffed with chaos from the Trump years, and it was time for their party to move on in seeking a 2024 nominee.

In Hawthorne, N.Y., Scott Gray, a land surveyor who voted for Mr. Trump in two elections, said he had wearied of him.

“I think he did a lot of things right,” Mr. Gray said, then immediately darted in the other direction: “I think he’s completely unpresidential. I can’t believe he’s still running for office.”

As an alternative, Mr. Gray said he was interested in “that guy down in Florida who’s governor — DeSantis.” (Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run but has not yet announced a campaign, is Mr. Trump’s closest rival for the G.O.P. nomination in recent polling of primary voters.)

In conversations with Republican-leaning voters around the country, Mr. Trump’s indictment brought out much anger, occasional embarrassment and a swirl of contradictory reactions, not unlike every other twist in the yearslong high drama of Donald Trump.

As expected, many rallied around the former president, calling the indictment by a Democratic prosecutor in New York a sham — a provocation they said would only cement their allegiance to Mr. Trump, who for years has encouraged supporters to see attacks on him as also attacks on them.

But for some the rush to defend was weighed down by scandal fatigue and a sense that Mr. Trump’s time has passed.

Outside Wild Cherry Nail and Hair Studio in Port Richey, Fla., on Friday, Ilyse Internicola and Meghan Seltman, both Trump supporters, discussed the indictment during a smoke break.

Who’s Running for President in 2024?

The race begins. Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and is likely to be headlined by the same two men who ran last time: President Biden and Donald Trump. Here’s who has entered the race so far, and who else might run:

Donald Trump. The former president is running to retake the office he lost in 2020. Though somewhat diminished in influence within the Republican Party — and facing several legal investigations — he retains a large and committed base of supporters, and he could be aided in the primary by multiple challengers splitting a limited anti-Trump vote.

Nikki Haley. The former governor of South Carolina and U.N. ambassador under Trump has presented herself as a member of “a new generation of leadership” and emphasized her life experience as a daughter of Indian immigrants. She was long seen as a rising G.O.P. star but her allure in the party has declined amid her on-again, off-again embrace of Trump.

Vivek Ramaswamy. The multimillionaire entrepreneur and author describes himself as “anti-woke” and is known in right-wing circles for opposing corporate efforts to advance political, social and environmental causes. He has never held elected office and does not have the name recognition of most other G.O.P. contenders.

President Biden. While Biden has not formally declared his candidacy for a second term, and there has been much hand-wringing among Democrats over whether he should seek re-election given his age, he is widely expected to run. If he does, Biden’s strategy is to frame the race as a contest between a seasoned leader and a conspiracy-minded opposition.

Marianne Williamson. The self-help author and former spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey is the first Democrat to formally enter the race. Kicking off her second presidential campaign, Williamson called Biden a “weak choice” and said the party shouldn’t fear a primary. Few in Democratic politics are taking her entry into the race seriously.

Others who are likely to run. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire are seen as weighing Republican bids for the White House.

“How far are they going to go?” Ms. Internicola, a hair stylist in the salon, demanded.

Ms. Seltman, a manicurist, said she would “always stay loyal” to Mr. Trump. “But for the presidency, I’d like to see DeSantis have his chance,” she said. “He’s done well with Florida, and I’d like to see what he does with the nation. Get it back to how it used to be.”

Mr. Trump was charged by a grand jury on Thursday with more than two dozen counts, with an arraignment expected on Tuesday, when specific charges will be unsealed.

Polling has shown a marked shift toward Mr. Trump among Republicans in recent months, primarily at Mr. DeSantis’s expense, which may partly reflect the highly anticipated indictment, on charges stemming from a $130,000 payment to a porn star on the eve of the 2016 election. Nearly two weeks ago, Mr. Trump incorrectly predicted the day of his arrest and called for protests, seeking to energize supporters. His provocations have included posting a picture of himself wielding a baseball bat beside a picture of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg.

William Stelling, a real estate agent in Jacksonville, Fla., once kept his options open about the 2024 Republican primary. But the indictment goaded him to stand up for the former president.

How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

“I am dusting off my Trump flags and hanging them proudly,” Mr. Stelling said. “This proves to me that he’s the right candidate. Because they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him on a trumped-up charge that we all know is basically a misdemeanor at best.”

Debbie Dooley, a staunch Trump loyalist who helped found the Atlanta Tea Party, went so far as to organize a demonstration for Mr. Trump during a DeSantis visit to suburban Atlanta on Thursday. She said the indictment bolstered her faith that he would win the presidency in his third campaign.

“I’m going to go ahead and make reservations for a hotel in D.C. for the inauguration because Trump is going to be the next president of the United States,” she said. “The prosecutor’s not doing anything but helping him.”

And Allan Terry, a Trump supporter in Charleston, S.C., who has Trump flags flying in his front and back yard, plans to add a new one to his truck, he said.

“If he messed around, so what?” Mr. Terry said of the payment to the former porn star, Stormy Daniels, which prosecutors say underlies violations of campaign finance and business records laws. “It’s immoral. It’s wrong. He shouldn’t have done it. If he did, so what does that have to do with his presidency?”

But not all previous Trump backers share such loyalty. In a Quinnipiac University poll released this week before the indictment, one in four Republicans and one in three independents said criminal charges should disqualify Mr. Trump as a presidential candidate.

A Fox News poll of the potential Republican field this week showed Mr. Trump with 54 percent of support from primary voters, followed by Mr. DeSantis at 24 percent and others, including former Vice President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador and South Carolina governor, in single digits.

In Iowa, which will hold the first Republican nominating contest early next year, Gypsy Russ, who lives in Iowa City, said she once supported Mr. Trump but doubted he could win the party’s embrace yet again.

“There’s not enough Republicans supporting him,” she said.

Ms. Russ said Mr. Trump had shown over and over that he is not presidential. “He’s just very rude,” she said. “And he doesn’t talk like a president is supposed to.” Although he has many fans, including her parents, she added, “He didn’t gain any more followers because of the way he carries himself.”

Jim Alden, a Republican businessman from Franconia, N.H., who is no particular fan of Mr. Trump’s, nonetheless predicted that the indictment would strengthen his support because Republicans find the behavior underlying the charges to be inconsequential, and they believe politics were driving Mr. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, in his inquiry.

“Unfortunately, it will embolden Trump’s core supporters because he has cultivated this persecution complex, and being indicted on what may be a questionably strong case is only going to strengthen the persecution complex,” said Mr. Alden.

One of those core supporters was Keith Marcus, who owns a wholesale beauty supply business in New York City.

“I’m shocked and I’m upset,” he said. The indictment “is setting a really bad precedent for the future,” he added. “It’s just a witch hunt. The D.A. is a joke — a total joke.”

But the indictment also seemed to have shaken at least some Trump voters’ willingness to back him in a bid for another four years in the White House.

In Hawthorne, N.Y., a red island of Republican voters in the otherwise liberal northern suburbs of New York, Palmy Vocaturo said he twice voted for Mr. Trump, but his confidence in him has eroded in light of the criminal investigations, not just in Manhattan but in cases pursued by a Georgia prosecutor and a special counsel for the Justice Department.

“I’m getting mixed feelings,” said Mr. Vocaturo, a retired construction worker. “If he is as bad as I think he is, go ahead and do something,” he said of the indictment.

Jon Hurdle, Elisabeth Parker and Haley Johnson contributed reporting.

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