The Republicans Have a Problem: Public Opinion Has Shifted on the Impeachment Trial
Author: Greg Valliere
January 29, 2020
TWO MISCALCULATIONS: Democrats believed last fall that the public would support the impeachment, conviction and ouster of Donald Trump. But the public barely budged on that radical option; opinion is still roughly divided. But the Republicans have miscalculated on public opinion as well, and now they’re squirming.
THE IDEA OF HOLDING THIS TRIAL without witnesses has been overwhelmingly rejected by the public; 75 percent of respondents in a recent poll said there should be witnesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t want witnesses because he knows that would ruin his goal of a speedy end of the trial, perhaps within a week.
HIGH DRAMA: Will McConnell have the votes by Friday to block witnesses? This would require four Republican defectors (assuming no Democrats defect, which is far from certain). There are three likely GOP defectors — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney; the latter surely must believe that revenge is a dish best served cold.
WHEN WILL THIS END? If there isn’t a fourth defector — perhaps Lamar Alexander or Cory Gardner — the trial could be over by next week. If there’s a fourth defector,
Bolton could provide sensational testimony, and the smearing of “Book Deal John” as a backstabbing agent of the deep state would make the Republican far right look even more extreme.
AS WE WROTE LAST WEEK, the issue isn’t whether Trump will be removed from office; he almost certainly will win acquittal because GOP senators don’t think the president’s obvious wrongdoing in Ukraine rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
THE ISSUE NOW is the residual damage inflicted on Trump and the GOP. The public increasingly senses a sham trial, and the Bolton book tour won’t be pretty for the White House. Trump reportedly is planning a prime time made-for-TV celebration of his acquittal, which would thrill his base but further alienate moderate voters.
THIS ISN’T ENOUGH FOR US TO CONCLUDE that Trump is now the underdog in November. As long as the economy stays strong, he will be the narrow favorite.
BUT REPUBLICAN RETENTION OF SENATE CONTROL is looking a little less likely — and that’s why McConnell is squirming this morning; the Senate, after all, is the firewall that blocks radical legislation from the House.
WITH ONLY A 53-47 majority and some vulnerable GOP moderates, McConnell surely appreciates the stakes on Friday as he grapples with a shift in public opinion and two unpalatable options: no witnesses and a public blowback, or witnesses and a circus for weeks to come.
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