When Democratic leaders announced the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, they used rehearsed words like “solemn” and wore sad faces. While the words that came out of their mouths seemed insincere, their sadness may have been real – showing grief over the possibility they may be aiding the president to achieve a landslide re-election in 2020.
The Founding Fathers were fully aware that partisan abuse of the impeachment tool could occur. To make a politically motivated prosecution more difficult to accomplish, they wisely made it so that only “high crimes and misdemeanors” would garner enough bipartisan support to unseat the president.
During the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in late 1998 and early ‘99, many people warned that perjury for covering up a personal embarrassment with no security ramifications was a crime but did not rise to the level of a “high crime” required to remove him from office. Pressing forward was a strategic blunder by the Republicans, because not only did the impeachment vote split along party lines, but members of Congress also perceived the process as divisive, unnecessary, and unfair. Clinton’s approval in Gallup polls rose sharply and in a wave of sympathy peaked at an incredible 73%.
Republicans had lowered the standards and left the Democrats lusting for revenge; with Trump, they finally got a chance to even the score.
The problem for Democrats is that impeachment is still divisive and produces a wave of sympathy for the accused when the process appears unfounded. At least Clinton had committed a crime. To many, it seems Trump is being impeached for keeping his campaign promise to drain the Swamp.
None of Clinton’s voters across America approved of him sullying the office of the president with his acts of lewdness, but large numbers were willing to stand by him nonetheless. Not only do many of Trump’s voters feel the move to impeach him is unjustified, some eagerly support his phone call with the president of Ukraine and what they see as an attempt to investigate potential corruption by former – and potentially returning – government officials.
Various informed commentators have, therefore, warned that if the Democrats push through with impeachment, it will backfire.
Just before the Ukraine scandal gained traction, Trump achieved 53% approval in Rasmussen’s Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, the highest since his inauguration. During the ruckus that followed, his approval rating dipped to 45%, but as the hearings proceeded, it rebounded to above 50%.
Other surveys showed the same trend. Before the Ukraine story and subsequent impeachment effort, major polls showed that every Democratic presidential contender could beat Trump in 2020. Today, the result is reversed in the critical swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He won by a razor-thin margin over Hillary Clinton in these three key states during the 2016 election, in some cases by only a few thousand votes. Now, he has a five-point lead in Michigan over Democratic frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden.
In 2016, we learned that polls often underestimate the real support for Trump. Most predictive indicators line up for a landslide re-election by the president: The economy is performing well, and Trump has the incumbent advantage and loads of charisma. Add in a botched partisan impeachment attempt, and Trump is set to humiliate the Democrats on election day in 2020.
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