NASHVILLE, Ind. — President Trump doesn’t look to be in much danger of losing his office this winter. But if history teaches us anything from past 20th Century impeachment efforts, his reelection is on thin ice next November and his Trumpublicans may face harrowing losses, particularly outside of Indiana.
The latest polling comes for CNN and Monmouth that had 49% favoring impeachment, with 51% in CNN and Pew Research and 50% in Monmouth backing his removal from office. This doesn’t appear to be enough to dislodge any of the 53 Senate Republicans from voting for his acquittal (Sen. Mike Braun predicted acquittal on Wednesday), but it bodes ill for his reelection and the party’s prospects this November.
That 69% in the CNN/SRS Poll (including 48% of Republicans) want witnesses in the Senate trial is also fascinating and portends ominously for the GOP. And there is enough polling on this to establish a trend on this front: Washington Post/ABC News: 71% supporting witnesses to 22% who don’t; Quinnipiac: 66% to 17%; and Morning Consult/Politico: 57% to 24%
The fact that nearly half of likely voters back impeachment and/or removal from office is new territory. Little wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is leery of allowing additional witnesses like former national security advisor John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani henchman Lev Parnas that could add sensational testimony into this stew.
Why does this analysis portend to a GOP disaster, particularly when my June 2016 warning of a blue wave reversed its course resulting in Trump’s stunning upset? Because President Trump is in territory that President Nixon avoided until the very end when his GOP base support collapsed, and President Clinton never experienced. And he won’t be running against the much loathed “Crooked Hillary.”
In 1998-99, President Clinton enjoyed wide popular support. Gallup put his job approval at 60% in the summer of 1998 at a time of stained blue dresses, while the commander-in-chief schooled us in the definition of what the word “is” was. His approval spiked to 73% after the December House impeachment vote.
In contrast, President Trump’s approve/disapprove numbers were 43/52% in the Monmouth Poll (tied at 47% in the Indiana We Ask America Poll) while the national right/wrong track numbers are a dismal 37/56%, despite the red hot economy.
According to Pew Research, only 30% favored Clinton’s removal from office prior to his Senate acquittal, or 19% below where President Trump stands.
As for President Nixon, in the spring of 1974, Gallup had just 44% who thought he should be removed from office, while just 41% disagreed. After the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to surrender the so-called “smoking gun” audio tapes, 57% favored his removal.
Why do I believe this could be a dicey predicament for Republicans beyond Indiana (I do not believe Gov. Eric Holcomb, any of the congressional incumbents of the GOP’s legislative majorities are in any danger due to the current maps)?
Because presidential approval and the right/wrong track numbers tend to translate into potential down ballot races. Just ask ex-Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.
In 1998, Democrats actually picked up five seats in the U.S. House, and did not pick up any Senate seats despite it being President Clinton’s second mid-term election. It was the first time since 1934 that the non-presidential party failed to gain congressional seats in a mid-term election. It was also the first time since 1822 that the non-presidential party had failed to gain seats in the mid-term election of a president’s second term.
In 1974, Democrats won net gains of four seats in the Senate, 49 seats in the House, and four seats in the gubernatorial elections.
Pew Research observed: “Trump’s approval ratings have been fairly stable since the early days of his presidency, but at a considerably lower level (Real Clear Politics polling composite puts Trump’s approve/disapprove at 44/52%). A Pew Center survey taken shortly after Clinton’s Jan. 26, 1998, denial of the Lewinsky affair allegations found that 71% of Americans approved of how he was handling his job as president, 10 percentage points higher than a survey taken just before the scandal broke. Clinton benefited from widespread support for his policies and skepticism about the media’s coverage of the allegations.
“While that initial boost faded over time, Clinton’s approval rating in August 1998 was still a robust 62%, where it remained for months.”
Here’s another difference between the Nixon and Clinton impeachments, according to Pew Research: “Unlike the Watergate hearings, which gripped much of the country in 1973, Americans largely tuned out the proceedings against Clinton.” The TV networks, along with the cable channels, carried the opening arguments on Wednesday.
If there’s solace for Trump and his Republicans, it is that many Americans are not following his impeachment like they did Nixon’s. But in their peripheral vision, about half of registered voters don’t like what they are seeing and hearing.
Who the Democrats nominate will certainly have an impact, but if you’re a Republican on the ballot this November, best be prepared to batten down the hatches.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.