On the Newport Beach boardwalk, Dane Lee strums his guitar, collecting dollars in a case.
He’s wearing board shorts and a trucker hat emblazoned with Trump 2020. Almost three years, one state and two federal indictments later, his loyalties haven’t shifted. He is still singing from the familiar Donald Trump hymn sheet.
“Well it’s a hoax,” he says, when I ask about allegations that Trump subverted the will of the American people in attempting to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
“They’re trying to use what’s called lawfare. They’re trying to find anything they can dig into,” Dane says. “But you see, Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, they’re much, much worse and they don’t do anything about them.”
Deflecting attention to the legal travails of the president’s second son is a common refrain of the Trump faithful and you hear it a lot around here.
Newport Beach is a Republican stronghold in the deep blue state of California. In 2020 it was resolutely Trump. In the Back Bay district of the city, 11 out of every 12 votes cast were for the outgoing president.
It’s also a reliable source of campaign donations for Trump. Many mega-rich residents of this coastal enclave believe he is the man to keep their wallets bulging.
Joe Gleason takes a break from cycling his beach cruiser to address the latest criminal charges for Trump.
“I’m prepared to say, without knowing the details on this latest one, that it’s an outrage,” he says.
“We have an elite in this country that is totally opposed to the Trump presidency and certainly to the Trump presidency recurring. They are engaging in heretofore unprecedented measures that ought to scare every American to death in order to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t go back to the Oval Office.”
With every criminal case, the roots of Trump’s support grow deeper, more entrenched in their views. The previous two indictments have done nothing to affect his popularity among Republican voters and even prompted a surge in campaign donations.
It’s a picture reflected in the polls. In the race for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is now 37 percentage points clear of his closest rival Ron DeSantis. Nikki Hayley and Tim Scott trail even further behind.
Nobody has ever had a lead like this and not been the nominee. But nor have they been three times a criminal defendant.
Read more: Of all the charges Donald Trump is facing, these are the most serious
Another looming court case highlights just how polarising politics in this country and Donald Trump himself is.
“He’s a crook,” says Joann Preston. “He’s dishonest to his wife and his family and his country. That’s what I think. His supporters just close their eyes and shut their ears to what they don’t want to see and hear.”
Eduardo Malamut, on holiday from Iowa with wife Julia, agrees. “I think what’s very depressing is it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
“The people who support him will support him no matter what happens. It certainly does not affect the Republican primaries, he’s going to win. I think the General Election is a toss up.”
Polls for a hypothetical general election suggest Donald Trump and Joe Biden are currently neck and neck with voters.
But there is a lot of ground to be covered before then, and plenty to come out in the wash.