The sheer scope of the headline speaks to the strange and fascinating place that has become presidential politics in the year 2019. The sitting president is about to be impeached, in all likelihood, by the House of Representatives, and yet, for some strange reason, it seems like business as usual on the 2020 campaign trail and across much of the country.
The impeachment train will come to an end in the U.S. Senate where there will either be a trial which ends in acquittal or something short of a trial which essentially does the same thing. The intricacies involved in the Senate procedure doesn’t mean much right now, but it boils down to the simple fact that President Trump, adore him or despise him, will not be removed from office by Congress thanks to Republican control of the Upper Chamber.
When covering the impeachment story through the lens of the 2020 presidential election, the question to ask is how this vote and process will effect candidates on each side. Conservative columnist, and #NeverTrump Republican, Jennifer Ruben, writing in The Washington Post, has tried to tackle that question by asking what impeachment means for the Democratic primary:
In sum, impeachment may have reminded Democrats not only how awful another four years of Trump would be, but also how hysterical and irrational Republicans have become. In such an environment, do you want the candidate who says “Bring it on!” or the candidate who perhaps can calm the storm, even a little, and get something done, even if the gains are modest. The national turmoil this president has brought on, culminating in impeachment, may go a long way toward explaining why Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are faring well. As Buttigieg (who arguably is the coolest, most controlled candidate in the race, with nary a wrinkle on his shirt nor a rhetorical hesitation in interview answers that run on for paragraphs) likes to say, a lot of Americans hope the next president’s appearance on TV will lower not raise your blood pressure.
Rubin’s argument boils down to her belief that Democrats, and, perhaps, Americans in general, want a more traditionally “boring” president in the White House compared to Donald Trump. To that end, the “boring” candidates in the Democratic primary like Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar continue to get buoyed by voters who aren’t ready for more “in your face” revolutionary politics of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
In short, Rubin says, Americans want the “Anti-Trump” candidate so boring that not a hint of impeachment would ever float in their direction. Some Democrats may want that, yes, but there is a larger amount of support between Sanders and Warren who want to push a more liberal agenda directly in response to Trump’s “Bring it on!” mentality. The result cuts both ways.
It’s interesting to also note, at this point, that Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is still running for president, has introduced legislation to censure President Trump rather than impeach him:
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is calling for President Donald Trump’s censure on the eve a full House vote Wednesday on the articles of impeachment.
The resolution, which Gabbard planned to introduce late Tuesday, suggests that the president put personal political gain over national interest.
Gabbard has said she remains undecided on impeachment.
“I’m taking this time for myself to be able to review everything that’s happened, all the information that’s been put forward,” Gabbard told a crowd at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, on Monday. “And just all the factors that go into really trying to figure out what what is the best action to take for our country. And for democracy. It’s not a simple or easy decision to make.”
There clearly is some strategy to Gabbard’s move when, as a Democratic candidate, the tide says you should be rolling with support for impeachment, and nothing less. Gabbard, as you probably know, is not a typical Democratic candidate.
As for President Trump’s Michigan rally, there is a reason for the venue in a swing county within a state that voted barely for Trump in 2016, and it may be coming at just the right time as Democrats prepare to impeach:
The importance of Michigan as a swing state is a major reason for Trump’s appearance in Battle Creek, according to Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.
“It’s certainly going to be one of the most intense battlegrounds in the country,” he said.
Trump is coming off a narrow Michigan victory in the 2016 election, in which he took home 47.3% of the votes in Michigan, as opposed to 47.0% from Hilary Clinton.
Michigan has a history of voting for both Republican and Democratic candidates. Barack Obama won 54.3% of the votes in Michigan in 2012.
Grossmann said Calhoun County, specifically, is a swing region. The county voted for Trump in 2016 and Obama in 2012.
Michigan is important, indeed. Take that fact with this report from Axios and you’ll begin to see how the dynamics of the impeachment play for Democrats might — might — turn out:
Quarterly polling by the Republican firm Firehouse Strategies, with Optimus, had President Trump struggling in the mega-battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — but in the newest edition, he beats every Democrat.
Trump won by an average of six percentage points in hypothetical match-ups against all current Democratic candidates, including Joe Biden, who was performing well in head-to-head contests against Trump in polling conducted earlier in the year.
Firehouse partner Alex Conant tells Axios: “Democrats racing towards impeachment are at serious risk of leaving behind the voters they need to retake the White House next year.”
The poll mentioned by Axios is from a Republican polling firm, so take the numbers as you will. They may be worth trash, or they may be picking up a trend yet to be confirmed by other pollsters.
The bottom line here is that for President Trump, his only option and his instinct is to double-down on the impeachment fight, own it, and take it directly to the voters in swing states where he remains popular with his original voting base.
For Thursday’s Democratic debate in Los Angeles, this culmination of a looming presidential impeachment just ten months from Election Day in 2020 creates a field of opportunity and danger.