Meanwhile, we should say, Republican 2024 hopefuls this week set their sights on the key state of Iowa.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has yet to officially enter the race but he did make his first stop to Iowa to test-run his message.
Ron DeSantis: We say very clearly in the state of Florida we will never ever surrender to the woke mob.
Our state is where woke goes to die.
Amna Nawaz: Former President Donald Trump will visit Iowa on Monday where his support has lagged.
A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll today shows percentage of Iowa Republicans who say they would definitely vote for Trump if he were the nominee has plummeted more than 20 points since June of 2021.
Peter, those numbers, when you look at them, it was 69 percent of Iowa Republicans, in June 2021, now it is 47 percent of Iowa Republicans.
It's still pretty strong, right?
But what does that number say to you at this stage of the game?
Peter Baker: Well, it says that there is a weakness there, and he knows that, right?
That is why he is getting out there now.
He has not done very much since he announced his candidacy for a second term, and he is watching DeSantis breathing down his neck.
DeSantis hasn't announced a thing and he's already a pretty strong competitor.
Now, Donald Trump has the advantage of numbers, right?
He doesn't need 50 percent if there are eight, nine, ten other candidates out there.
We saw that in 2016.
He had 16 other candidates.
He won with the plurality of the votes in these early primaries.
That is all you need.
So, he is counting on people getting in.
In fact, he said that, the more the merrier, because he's trying to them (INAUDIBLE), because he knows the ceiling, right?
There are a certain number of Republicans who are just not going to vote for him and are really tired of looking for somebody else, and that's a real problem for them.
And, of course, you add the risk of indictment, which now seems to be looming from multiple sources who know that's going to affect things.
So, it is a pretty volatile moment.
Amna Nawaz: And when you look at those numbers, you dig down into the latest poll there, they have favorability ratings for many of the candidates, Leigh Ann.
Trump's favorability is still among the highest among Republicans there.
He is on par with Ron DeSantis.
He is way ahead of Nikki Haley and Mike Pence.
How do you look at the field right now?
What are you hearing?
Leigh Ann Caldwell: The field seems to be Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis of that lane of the party, kind of the Trump far-right, the MAGA Republican, which Ron DeSantis is trying to peel off that base.
And then you kind of have everyone else who is going to be fighting for votes.
But I will say, it is really, really early.
Every single election cycle, there is always a frontrunner very early on and then that frontrunner very rarely becomes the nominee.
Peter Baker: President Scott Walker, right, or Rand Paul, or any of them.
Leigh Ann Caldwell: Right.
Walker jumped in the race in 2015.
I had a baby.
I came off from maternity leave, and he was gone out of the race.
So, that's how.
Amna Nawaz: That's how we marked (INAUDIBLE).
Leigh Ann Caldwell: Right, exactly.
So, I just think that it is the base that you need to win a primary.
And if any of these other candidates, Nikki Haley or the other ones that are going to jump in, if they can cut into that, there is -- the concern among some Republicans, which we've talked about before is that too many candidates will dilute the field.
Amna Nawaz: We hear this again and again, Laura, right?
Everyone -- well, not everyone.
There are a number of Republicans who maybe want to run themselves who say, you know what, a crowded field is going to hurt us again, it will clear the way for Mr. Trump to win the plurality instead of a majority.
That is why Larry Hogan decided not to run.
It was his stated reason.
But, I guess, at this stage, when you look at where folks are -- there was the never Trump wing, right?
There is now the kind of thank you, next wing.
But is there an organized anti-Trump effort of any kind for people who don't believe he should be the Republican nominee?
Laura Barron-Lopez: The short answer is no.
I mean, there are a number of Republicans, as Leigh Ann and Peter said, that are trying to say, look, it is time to move on.
I mean, that is the whole reason that you see Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haleys of the world running.
But when it comes down to their policies and when it comes down to their core messages, they are nearly identical to the former president.
And so there may be a conversation about are they done with the man himself, is the party done with the man himself, potentially, although there is no one that is forcefully trying to distance themselves from Trump.
Ron DeSantis is running on a platform of anti-transgender, anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Florida just introduced a six-week abortion ban, that if a woman -- that gives an exemption for rape and incest, but the woman has to provide proof, official proof, documentation of that, and Ron DeSantis said that he supports it.
I was just talking to a Republican strategist who -- in a swing state who said that, yes, that type of messaging and platform may work in a primary, it is not going to necessarily work in a general election in these swing states.
Amna Nawaz: And, Leigh Ann, I talked to both Larry Hogan and Asa Hutchinson this week, and Chris Sununu has said the same thing.
The next nominee, they say, has to be someone who can broaden the appeal, right, who can broaden the Republicans' support beyond that MAGA base.
Is there a moderate candidate that your Republican sources say they would get behind eventually?
Is there anyone who stands out to you?
Leigh Ann Caldwell: That is the challenge.
What candidate can get through a Republican primary but also win a general election?
And that is the challenge that there is right now.
I talked to a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Everyone has different ideas.
I will say, a lot of people do not or want someone other than Trump.
So, official Washington is looking for something else, even though he still does have a lot of support among the base.
We analyze this.
And Trump-endorsed over 160 people in the 2022 midterms and only two dozen so far have endorsed him to-date.
And so he does -- people are starting to look elsewhere.
Who that person, that is just the big question.
Peter Baker: What's amazing actually is that there's -- we always talk about Trump lane and a non-Trump lane, but there's only a Trumpism lane, right?
To Laura's point, they are all running for the same candidates.
They're all running as the same candidate except the personality of the former president himself.
I can be Trump without the baggage.
That is what DeSantis' message is, right?
If you like Trump, if you like his policies, if you like the anti-woke culture war kind of thing, I am your guy without the indictments, right?
I'm the guy without January 6th.
I'm the guy who can move on and take this next generation.
And DeSantis gets it at age 44, I think, right?
He is half the age of Biden.
He can make a generational argument.
But he's not running in a different lane than Trump.
He's running in the same lane.
Amna Nawaz: You don't see a ton of support from other senior Republicans for Ron DeSantis either, right?
Peter Baker: No.
But, I mean, you talked about Asa, like for instance.
Asa Hutchinson, a very respected governor, former governor of Arkansas.
He was one of the impeachment managers for Bill Clinton.
That's when he came to fame.
Guys like him don't have an appeal because they do not have that visceral connection, right, with the core base.
And the question is for the people of the Bush wing of the party, for instance, are they willing to get behind people like DeSantis?
Very interesting to see Jeb Bush, for instance, to say that he thought DeSantis is doing a good job, not an endorsement, he made clear, but he said nice things about him.
Laura Barron-Lopez: Yes.
Another data point that just speaks to what we are talking about in terms of is the Republican Party beyond Trump himself versus Trumpism is the whole conversation around January 6th, and the fact that the Republican Party as a whole -- I mean, the candidates that are potentially running do not call Trump out about January 6th, do not confront him about the fact that he said the Constitution should be terminated.
There are Republicans beyond just Marjorie Taylor Greene on the Hill that are saying, we want to take a trip to the jails to see January 6th defendants and essentially revise history on January 6th.
So, the party as a whole is just essentially excusing Trump on January 6rh and trying to revise history, Amna.
Amna Nawaz: You've made my segue for me, which is want to -- before we go, I want to ask about the fact that we have seen a revision of history unfold on Fox.
Tucker Carlson, we know, got access to that security footage and has been kind of rewriting what happened on that day and claiming that it was peaceful falsely on January 6th.
Look, we all know the role the media plays.
We know the role that Fox has played in particular in pushing the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
And we know a lot of this is as a result of the new filings from that Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit.
I want to share one of those text messages that was revealed as part of those filings.
This is from Tucker Carlson on January 4th, 2021 to a colleague talking about then-President Trump, rather, saying, quote, we are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights.
I truly can't wait.
Followed by then saying, quote, I hate him passionately.
Peter, knowing what we know now about these private -- the private contempt for Mr. Trump, privately dismissing the election fraud claims while publicly pushing them, publicly supporting him, does any of this make a dent in the Fox base?
Peter Baker: Well, it's a good question.
Because, basically, what we have learned from this is how much Fox is afraid of their own viewership, right?
And in some ways, it's the same way with Trump.
Trump is almost afraid of his own base to some extent too.
Why did he not brag about vaccines when he could have said, this is my biggest accomplishment?
Because the base booed him at a rally.
He became afraid of his own people.
And that's where Fox is too.
They don't want to alienate their own viewership.
We got a hold at The New York Times, we got hold of an audiotape, this meeting that Fox executives had with some of the anchors after the Arizona call in 2020, in which they're all antsy about the fact that they were taking so much blowback.
How can we make a call in a state without getting this blowback from our viewers?
That is not what journalism is supposed to be.
But they are so captive to that.
And I think that's been the big revelation.
Does it make a difference?
I don't know.
Most Fox viewers are not watching the Dominion lawsuit.
Amna Nawaz: Laura, how do you see it?
Laura Barron-Lopez: Whether it makes a difference with the base, yes, I don't think we really know yet.
When I was at CPAC and I asked people there about what was coming out in Dominion, they either said, well, they excused it and then said I still believe Trump, I still believe the election was stolen and they didn't necessarily say that they were going to stop watching Fox either.
I think that when we look at what Fox did and what so many of these hosts did, I mean, it is very clearly propaganda.
That's what it is.
Because they were deciding to prioritize their profit and what they thought would be profitable, which was telling their viewers what they wanted to hear versus what the actual facts were, and they're promoting conspiracy theories.
And one example of that was also Rupert Murdoch in those filings, we saw -- revealed that he wanted to help Jared Kushner.
And so that was why he also revealed then-Candidate Biden's ads, ad buys, ahead of when they were released because he said he wanted to help his friend.
That is not a news organization.
Amna Nawaz: Leigh Ann, I'll give you the last word.
We've got 30 seconds left.
What is your take on this?
Leigh Ann Caldwell: I mean, I just think that it really shines a light on what is happening behind the scenes.
I think that looking at Fox, we as journalists look at it much differently now.
Now it was clear that they knew what the truth was but they decided to ignore it.
And I think that they should have a huge credibility issue on their hands.
We will see where this goes.
And, ultimately, I don't know, though, legally, it's enough for Dominion to win this lawsuit.
I am not a lawyer.
Amna Nawaz: We'll see where this goes.
Thank you to you all.