If you’ve read this blog for more than a minute, you are doing so despite the lack of impeachment coverage. It’s not that I don’t care. We only get an impeachment every couple of decades. But it’s not moving the needle. Trump was right. He could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without his supporters being phased.
Withholding military aid from Ukraine unless the Bidens are investigated is less serious to most than shooting someone on 5th Avenue. Yes, I’m curious if Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, or Susan Collins will vote to convict. I’m also curious if it will rain tomorrow. And the second item is more likely to impact my existence.
Here are a few things we should remember, next time we get tempted to think there’s much connection between what happens in the Senate and what voters will decide in November:
Trump’s Approval Numbers Don’t Move
When he’s riding high, he’s still underwater. When he’s in a slump, still better than most presidents at their worst. If you figure the first candidate to get elected with a negative favorability rating could get re-elected with one, he’s never more than a good week away from being able to win.
Sure, a bad economy or foreign disaster could change this. Impeachment is neither of those things. The last election was decided by voters who disliked both Trump and Clinton. This time, the deciders may both think Trump deserves removal from office based on his conduct, and that he’s a better idea than his opponent.
Most Voters Capable of Wanting Conviction Already Do
More than 90% of the voters who disapprove of Trump’s job performance and/or have unfavorable feelings about him already wanted the House to impeach and Senate to convict. The sliver of voters who don’t like him, but think this is too drastic aren’t going to drive policy. When Bill Clinton was in this spot, the majority of voters liked him, and the majority didn’t want him removed. So nothing was going to happen.
For the first several months of Watergate hearings and investigations, there was a large gap between the amount of voters who disapproved of Nixon, and those who wanted to see him removed. This never existed for Trump. Not only will Mitch McConnell avoid calling interesting witnesses, but the amount of voters who could change their minds based on what John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney say are few.
Hearings Will Impact Candidates Less than Expected
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and what’s left of Cory Booker will need to show up for the Senate trial, while Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, et al are free to traverse Iowa prior to the caucus. Consensus is this hurts the senators.
Sure, they’re going to miss a few campaign days. However, the hearings won’t start until January 6 at the earliest, and may take longer to begin. They’re not going to happen on weekends, and probably won’t be all five days of the week. With the possible exception of Klobuchar, none of the candidates were going to spend all of their available time in Iowa anyway.
Instead of having to decide whether to risk offending Iowans or New Hampshirites, or how often to forsake both to visit Nevada or South Carolina, these candidates have the excuse of impeachment. When they do make an appearance, they’ll get more credit. On the campaign trail, it’s easy to get overlooked. All things Trump normally get the majority of cable news attention.
Once the trial begins, the senators will find themselves strategically located near CNN and MSNBC studios, and as active candidates who are in D.C. at the trial, will get more coverage and exposure than if they were traipsing through rural Iowa in the snow to speak to 68 people in a diner.
Any candidate wanting quality time in Iowa can get another 10 to 15 days on the ground between now and February 3. Any candidate who wants to use their January TV time to speak directly to Iowans can do so too. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to digging through poll numbers and anxiously awaiting some fresh data from the early voting states. Going to skip this impeachment thing. Please track me down if 20 GOP senators are suddenly ready to convict.