Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. this month, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri — who offered an encouraging fist-pump to protesters before a some of them stormed the Capitol — confronted an image that has come to define him head-on.
That day, Mr. Hawley said, had underscored the “great crisis moment” in which Americans currently found themselves. The mob had come that day.
The “woke mob,” that is.
“And guess what?” he went on: “I’m here today, I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not backing down.”
Mr. Hawley, 39, has been denounced by many of his former supporters and faces the biggest political threat of his career. Simon & Schuster dropped plans to publish his book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech.” Major donors severed ties. Fomer Senator John Danforth, his mentor, called supporting Mr. Hawley “the biggest mistake of my life.”
But he has also seen what many of former President Donald J. Trump’s most ardent supporters learned in the wake of the attack: the immediate political perils of backing down are far greater than those of doubling down.
Mr. Hawley saw a surge in small-dollar donations to his campaign, making January his best fund-raising month since 2018. As Axios first reported, the $969,000 he amassed easily offset defections from corporate political action committees. Added to that was the applause of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has since bundled more than $300,000 for Mr. Hawley.
“My No. 1 piece of advice was: You can’t go back on this now,” recalled his adviser Gregg Keller. “You go back on this now, and you make absolutely everyone angry.”
As his advisers saw it, the lessons of the Trump era — that success in today’s G.O.P. means never having to say you’re sorry — were clear. And Mr. Hawley — a high-achieving graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School — was nothing if not a star student.
In the weeks since, Mr. Hawley has vowed to sue the “woke mob” at Simon & Schuster for dropping his book. He’s written for The New York Post about “the muzzling of America.” He has appeared on Fox News to discuss said muzzling. And while he said shortly after the riot that he would not run for president in 2024, his advisers have continued to hype him as “one of the favorites” of a potential Republican primary field, as Mr. Keller put it.
Mr. Hawley tested his new cri de coeur on a live audience on Feb. 26, at the gathering of the conservative faithful in Orlando. “You know, on Jan. 6, I objected to the Electoral College certification,” he began. “Maybe you heard about it.”
The room erupted. “I did,” he went on, “I stood up —” His words were drowned out by cheers.
It had not been the mood of his speech. But as he paused to take in the standing ovation, Mr. Hawley seemed happy.