Impeachment: First Political Clues

By Jim Ellis

President Donald Trump | whitehouse.gov

Dec. 16, 2019 — As we move toward the impeachment vote in the full House and the impending Senate trial to determine whether President Trump should be removed from office, a great deal of speculation exists about how voters will respond to this situation. A series of early December polls from the most critical swing states gives us a clue.

Firehouse Strategies/Optimus commissioned simultaneous polls within the Dec. 3-5 period in the top swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As we remember, all of these places gave Trump a small victory margin in 2016. Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights conducted a poll of the Arizona electorate during the same period. Firehouse found sampling groups numbering between 551 and 610 respondents in the three states. OH used a slightly larger 628 person sample cell in the Grand Canyon State.

Both pollsters tested President Trump in each targeted state against former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and ex-New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

In all instances President Trump led his prospective opponent when individually paired. Since he had been trailing in similar ballot test responses from several previous polls in the Great Lakes States and was about even in Arizona, the change at the height of the impeachment proceedings suggests that he is seeing a net positive early return from the legal attack.

Of course, much could change before the process concludes, but this first data does provide us an interesting political snapshot as it relates to impeachment perceptions. As a rule, general election polling before the parties nominate their presidential candidates is usually irrelevant but, considering the present impeachment overlay, these numbers appear to be significant and particularly so because they are originating from critically important states.

For President Trump to win re-election, he must carry all five of the states in his 2016 coalition that typically vote Republican but have been trending closer to the Democrats since the last presidential election. Those are: Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Florida and North Carolina are always swing states in virtually every election and will be again in 2020. To win, the president must first carry all of these aforementioned states. If so, he then would need to win just one of the Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin trio in order to yield a bare Electoral College majority.

For the Democrats to win under a model where Trump carries the five aforementioned Republican states and sees no other leakage in his 2016 victory coalition, the eventual party nominee must win Pennsylvania and then take either Michigan or Wisconsin in order to gain a bare majority.

In the Firehouse Pennsylvania poll, President Trump ran best with a 48-37 percent margin against Sen. Sanders. His closest rivals were Biden and Bloomberg. Trump recorded a four-point margin spread against both men. Bloomberg’s showing in this Pennsylvania survey is his best in any current poll, and one of the few that finds Biden trailing in his native state.

Biden also comes closest to Trump in Michigan: trailing 46-41 percent. The president fares best in the Wolverine State, with 11-point margins, against both Bloomberg and Mayor Buttigieg.

Wisconsin, under the Firehouse studies, is Trump’s strongest state. He tops both Sens. Warren and Sanders by 13 percentage points here, while the closest Democrat, again Biden, comes only within nine points of the President, 48-39 percent.

OH Predictive Insights finds similar spreads in Arizona. Here, the president leads Biden and Buttigieg by only two points apiece but expands to a 13-point margin against Sen. Sanders.

As the impeachment process moves forward, we will see if these trends hold or transform. For now, however, it appears President Trump could actually be gaining strength even as impeachment moves forward.

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