The Jan. 6 Hearings Are Great for Ron DeSantis

While Ron DeSantis has been critical of the House select committee's investigation into the events leading up to the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Florida governor could be the one who benefits most from it politically amid continuing speculation he is preparing a run for the presidency.

Neither Trump or DeSantis has formally declared their intentions for the White House in 2024, but both have long been thought as the two main frontrunners who will eventually be battling for the GOP nomination.

As the January 6 hearings continue to put Trump at further risk of being the first-ever former president to be charged with a crime, DeSantis looks set to escape completely unharmed by the committee's presentations.

More than 18 months after the Capitol riot, DeSantis' name has not been linked to any attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, and he was not present in Washington, D.C. at the time. DeSantis, who did condemn the violence at the Capitol in the immediate aftermath, has subsequently rarely discussed the attack in public one way or another.

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The biggest political beneficiary from the January 6 hearing surrounding former President Donald Trump may be Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his top potential rival for the 2024 presidential nomination. Above, DeSantis speaks during a press conference at the Shul of Bal Harbour on June 14, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Trump, on the other hand, suffered arguably his most damaging day since he left office when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in front of the committee on Tuesday.

Hutchinson testified under oath that Trump was aware that some of his supporters were armed on January 6 but still ordered them to go to the Capitol, and that the former president was so irate he couldn't join the riot that he grabbed the steering wheel of the presidential SUV and then attacked a Secret Service agent who tried to restrain him.

The claims from Hutchinson were so detrimental that a number of former Trump defenders and conservative news outlets came out and said that they cannot support Trump anymore.

The day after Hutchinson's testimony, right-wing news outlet The Washington Examiner published an editorial declaring that Trump is "unfit to be anywhere near power ever again."

The Examiner called Trump a "disgrace" and, without naming anyone in particular, said that the GOP has "far better options" to lead the party in 2024.

Joshua Scacco, an associate professor of political communication at the University of South Florida, suggested the turning of the tide with regards to right-wing media's support of Trump may be significant come 2024.

"Should elements of the conservative media ecosystem shift away from Trump, you could see some of the Republican base follow these elite cues to another candidate deemed viable like DeSantis," Scacco told Newsweek.

Michael Binder, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida, said the January 6 proceedings were already going "poorly" for Trump and were exacerbated by Hutchinson's testimony, which can only benefit DeSantis.

"It had everything you'd want in a made for TV movie, from the technical crimes to the memorable ketchup dripping down the wall to the action scene trying to turn the SUV back toward the Capitol," Binder told Newsweek. "From that perspective, all potential 2024 Republican challengers, DeSantis included, are aided by what should be a weakened Donald Trump. DeSantis is the Trump without the chaos that many former and tacit Trump supporters claim to want."

There are signs that DeSantis is trying to distance himself from Trump ahead of a potential 2024 presidential run. DeSantis is reportedly is not seeking the former president's endorsement as the Florida governor vies for reelection in November's midterms.

DeSantis' bid to be a dominant figure in the Republican Party also appears to be gaining traction. While Trump is still the favorite to win the Republican nomination should he choose to run, DeSantis has started to close the gap in a number of surveys and is the number one contender once Trump is taken out of the equation.

DeSantis is also the only person who may come close to Trump in terms of accumulating a war chest of donations. DeSantis managed to raise more than $113 million during this Florida reelection campaign cycle, approaching the $122 million Trump previously raised on a national level via his Super PACs last year.

With eyes looking to the next presidential run, GOP donors are said to be growing increasingly weary of the continuous controversies surrounding the former president amid the January 6 hearing and are looking more towards other potential challengers in 2024—like DeSantis.

Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor, told Politico that the Florida governor is currently "lying in wait, sharpening his knives."

However, experts still believe that despite the evidence and damning testimony that has already been laid against Trump, it may not be enough to pave a way for DeSantis to enter the White House.

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A video of former President Donald Trump is played as Cassidy Hutchinson, a top former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testifies in front of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, on June 28, 2022. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sean Freeder, an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Florida, told Newsweek that in terms of the January 6 hearings, the best outcome for DeSantis would be that it "leaves his hands clean but damages Trump's reputation" to such an extent the former president will be unable to run for the GOP nomination in 2024.

Freeder said that while the hearings so far "could not have been much more damaging" to Trump's image, the former president is "unusually resistant to revelations that would end the careers" of most other politicians and believes he would still intend to run even if he faces criminal prosecution.

"For his voters, it would only add to his own martyrdom, and I would still heavily favor him in the primary. To be blunt, I'm not sure if there is a single thing that could be revealed in the January 6 hearings that would change supporters' minds about Trump, nor is there something so damaging that would cause him to decide not to run," he said.

"In fact, the more he is attacked, I think the more emboldened he will be to run. DeSantis may be watching with muted glee, but it's hard for me to imagine that this much changes his odds of being able to seek and win the Republican nomination," he added.

If the GOP presidential primary does still come down to Trump and DeSantis, Binder suggested that there would only be one clear winner.

"I'm sure DeSantis is going to run in 2024, but I also think the rigors of a presidential campaign expose the person that you are, and if Trump is on that stage taking shots at DeSantis, I just don't see how he rises to the occasion," he told Newsweek.