In this account, Trump acknowledges that Powell and her team have been sloppy in their handling of the legal fight and is not completely sold on her wild claims. Nevertheless: “Trump expressed skepticism at various points about Powell’s theories, but he said, ‘At least she’s out there fighting.'”

This is nearly verbatim what I have heard from Trump supporters in research time and again. Yes, maybe he’s a little out there. Yes, he can be a little sloppy with his words. But at least he’s out there fighting.

This is not exclusive to Trump. Consider the defiance of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has embraced wild conspiracy theories and has positioned herself as an inheritor of the Trump legacy in the House. The real enemy, in her view? “Weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully.”

Trump’s influence on the party in the near term won’t be a policy agenda or even his personal ability to play kingmaker. In October 2020, 59% of Republican voters thought of themselves as Trump supporters more than Republican supporters. After the inauguration, Trump-firsters had fallen to 38% of the party, with 48% saying they think of themselves as party supporters first.