Impeachment Politics

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 20, 2019 — As the most recent polling from national research sources and in key states shows President Trump gaining political strength, the US House last night, on a virtual party line vote, approved the resolution to send the Articles of Impeachment to the US Senate for trial.

The vote was 229-198, with three Democrats voting against the articles and one Republican-turned-Independent, Michigan’s Justin Amash, supporting the measures. Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who represents the 2nd District of Hawaii, voted “Present”. Three members, two Republicans and one Democrat, were absent. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) will soon resign his seat due to pleading guilty to a federal campaign finance charge. Retiring Reps. Jose Serrano (D-NY) and John Shimkus (R-IL) were the others who did not vote. All present and voting Republicans opposed the impeachment measures.

Two of the three opposition Democrats were expected to vote no, Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN) who represents the strongest Trump district in the country to elect a Democrat to the House, and New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew who is about to leave his party to join the Republicans. The third no vote came from freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), who represents the northern district in Maine that delivered its electoral vote to Trump in 2016 even though the state voted for Hillary Clinton. Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that choose to divide their electoral votes.

Two pollsters who had been showing national political support for the impeachment are now projecting a swing toward the opposite conclusion.

The CNN poll, conducted by their usual research partner, the SSRS firm, surveyed 1,005 adult respondents over the Dec. 12-15 period. A total of 45 percent of the respondents favored impeaching the president, while 47 percent said, “they don’t feel that way.” In contrast, their Nov. 21-24 survey found 50 percent favoring impeachment while 43 percent said they didn’t agree with the move. Previously, the CNN polls had reported positions consistently favoring impeachment since late September.

Gallup produces similar numbers. In their Dec. 2-15 poll of 1,025 US adults, 51 percent opposed impeachment as compared to 46 percent who were supportive. While consistently showing more support for impeachment than against since mid-August, the Gallup numbers began to turn in President Trump’s favor at the beginning of November.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy released two state polls on consecutive days, one in Florida (Dec. 11-16; 625 registered Florida voters) and the other from Virginia (same period and respondent numbers as Florida).

The Florida numbers find 47 percent favoring impeachment and 50 percent opposing. In Virginia, a weak state for Trump and one that will be conceded to the Democratic nominee in the upcoming general election, sees impeachment being approved by just a single percentage point, 49-48 percent.

It is being reported that many House Democrats are urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to report the impeachment articles to the Senate for the stated reason that delaying the trial might give the Democrats a chance to have their witness demands met.

There may be more practical political reasons to delay reporting the articles, however. First, from a presidential election front, five Democratic candidates, including top tier contenders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, would be forced to stay in the Senate chamber for weeks and listen to the impeachment proceedings because the senators are serving as the jury for the Trump trial.

The currently projected trial dates would coincide with the presidential nomination votes beginning in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and then onto Super Tuesday on March 3. California, Texas, and North Carolina are among the 14 states and one territory holding presidential primary elections that day. Delaying the trial would allow the senator candidates to campaign in those places and make the contrast argument nationally against President Trump.

Second, since the resident will be acquitted in the Senate where a two-thirds vote is necessary for conviction, doing so early would likely make impeachment a non-issue once the campaign unfolds in earnest later in the year. (The House vote featuring unanimous support among Republicans gives us a further clue that there is no chance that 20 Senate Republicans defect and vote for impeachment.) Delaying the trial would keep the issue alive and make impeachment more of a factor on the campaign trail, something Democrats certainly believe is to their benefit.

Now that the impeachment process is through the House, we will begin to see what political benefits and ramifications will actually be reaped and felt. With many moving parts to this issue yet to be resolved, the final political response must still be written.

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