Dems' Best Shot at Trump Is at the Ballot Box

The impeachment process in the House is the legislative branch’s equivalent of a criminal indictment. A Senate conviction is akin to a judicial finding of guilt. So, in the wake of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony, I canvassed eight of my smartest attorney friends Thursday morning with a question: “How many prosecutors seek an indictment when they know there is no reasonable chance of securing a conviction?”

The answers from this group of current and former prosecutors, criminal and civil-defense attorneys, and a judge—with over 240 years of combined legal experience—ranged from as mild as, “I wouldn’t think very often” and “I cannot think of a time,” to “almost never, and it is totally unethical to do so,” and “speaking for myself and those I know, never!”

In this hyper-partisan political environment, one that bears no comparison to the Watergate period (I sat in on many of those summer of 1973 hearings), even assuming that all 47 Senate Democrats voted for conviction, there was never any chance that the 20 Republican votes necessary for a conviction would be there—and maybe not even one or two.

No matter what Mueller found over the past year, no matter what was in the report, no matter what he said Wednesday, it was never going to happen.

For months, the Democrats advocating impeachment have looked like a dog with a bone—they just would not let go, which is how House Republicans looked with Benghazi. The more Democrats push this, the more they play into President Trump’s hand and the more they make the case for being out of touch with the American public—and, thus, unworthy of governing, which is pretty much what they say about Trump.

Their odds of beating him at the ballot box next year are far greater than any lingering hope of removing him from office.

Trump’s job-approval ratings, while still very low, have ticked up a few points in recent months, averaging 45 percent (and 53 percent disapproval) in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. The Fox News poll released Wednesday night was conducted July 21-23 among 1,004 registered voters and showed Trump’s approval rating to be 46 percent, which was the poll’s sixth consecutive result this year at either 45 or 46 percent. That’s a bit better than his 44 percent average since taking office.

Trump’s disapproval rating was 51 percent, 2 points below the May and June Fox News polls, even with their March and April polls. His average disapproval since taking office is 52 percent. The July 15-17 PBS Newshour/NPR/Marist Poll released earlier this week pegged Trump’s approval rating among both adults and 1,175 registered voters at 44 percent, with his disapproval 52 percent.

A constant refrain among both Trump supporters, as well as a concern among many of his detractors, is that a strong economy will help him win reelection next year. But look at the difference between Trump’s overall approval ratings and those of his handling of the economy.

In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, his approval rating on the economy is 52 percent, 7 points above his overall approval of 45 percent. Trump’s disapproval on the economy is 43 percent, 10 points below his overall disapproval. Similarly, this week’s Fox News poll showed his economic approval to be 52 percent, 6 points above his overall approval, while disapproval of his handling of the economy was 41 percent, 10 points below his overall disapproval.

The 6- (Fox News) or 7-point (RCP) difference between his overall and economic approval ratings is the ‘Trump Penalty,’ the price he pays for his style, his behavior, his language and tweeting.

For months this column has argued that Trump had a hard-core base of about 35 percent, the “Fifth Avenue” folks who would be with him no matter what. Meanwhile, 45 percent are committed to voting against him, and roughly 20 percent are waiting to see who Democrats nominate and the circumstances. That’s the floor for each side, not the ceiling.

The PBS Newshour/NPR/Marist poll asked, “Thinking about the 2020 election, do you definitely plan to vote for Donald Trump for re-election as president or do you definitely plan to vote against him?” After three consecutive months of 49-year-low unemployment rates, and what has been a strong economy, 39 percent of registered voters said they would definitely vote to re-elect him, 53 percent said they would definitely vote against him.

If the economy slows down or Democrats nominate a solid candidate, Trump’s 39 percent definite vote could drop as low as 35 percent, conversely if Democrats nominate a bad candidate, their current 53 percent definite could drop as low as 45 percent.

Any Republican feeling sanguine about Trump’s chances should take a look at the July 17-22 Quinnipiac University poll of 1,431 voters in Ohio, a state Trump carried by a 52-44 percent margin and that has a Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index score of R+3, meaning that the state votes 3 points more Republican than the nation as a whole. The poll showed Joe Biden leading Trump by 8 points, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris even with Trump, and the president running a point ahead of Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

He is facing a very tough, uphill race. 

This story was originally published on nationaljournal.com on July 26, 2019