- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed not to pursue impeachment without GOP support. She went ahead nonetheless, and now Democrats find themselves not only without Republicans, but increasingly without independent voters’ backing either.

The latest polling shows two weeks of open impeachment hearings and Democrats’ claims of “bombshell” revelations have not only failed to build support for impeachment, but have actually soured independents on the effort.

Meanwhile President Trump’s approval rating remains remarkably steady, continuing a trend that’s lasted nearly all of 2019.

The latest survey with good news for Mr. Trump came Tuesday in the Quinnipiac University Poll, which found the tables have turned. Where a month ago support for impeaching and removing Mr. Trump stood at 48% in favor and 46% opposed, now it’s 45% in favor and 48% opposed.

Quinnipiac found support among political independents had dropped 4 percentage points during that time. Other surveys show even bigger drops of support among independent voters.

“The televised impeachment hearings haven’t had much of an effect on the president’s approval rating, or how voters feel about impeachment. The numbers still don’t look good for Trump, but they definitely haven’t gotten worse,” said Tim Malloy, Quinnipac’s polling analyst.

The lack of support convinced one Democrat to back away from impeachment.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Michigan Democrat, told Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff over the weekend that she didn’t “see the value” of pursuing Mr. Trump’s ouster, given “how divided” voters are. She suggested the House could instead attempt to censure the president.

By Tuesday Ms. Lawrence had recanted, issuing a statement saying she still supports impeachment, giving rise to speculation that Democratic leaders had leaned hard on her not to break ranks.

Hours after her retraction, Democrats revealed they were taking the next steps in the impeachment process, with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, announcing his panel would hold its first impeachment hearing on Dec. 4.

Mr. Nadler said the first hearing will focus on the Constitution’s standards when it allows for impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” though he also said the hearing will begin to delve into whether Mr. Trump’s behavior meets that standard.

“Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump,” he said.

Mr. Nadler sent a letter to Mr. Trump offering him a chance to participate. In past impeachment proceedings, the president’s lawyer has been given the opportunity to suggest witnesses and to pose questions to those who testify during the hearings.

The president on Dec. 4 will be traveling back from several days of meetings in London.

The Judiciary hearing marks a transition for the impeachment inquiry, which until now has been in the hands of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and its chairman, Adam B. Schiff.

The California Democrat says the last two weeks of public hearings were a fact-finding mission that exposed Mr. Trump for illegally delaying aid to Ukraine to try to get that government to conduct investigations of Mr. Trump’s political opponents.

Mr. Schiff says he’s writing a report to turn over to Mr. Nadler to help Democrats decide what to do next. Yet Mr. Nadler’s announcement of a hearing even before that report is done underscores Democrats’ time crunch — they need to make a decision before the public tunes out even more over the December holidays.

Democrats hope the next round of hearings plays better.

Despite record saturation coverage from the broadcast networks and cable news channels, ratings were far from the “huge” audiences predicted — and those who did pay attention weren’t swayed.

Vanity Fair, which collaborated with polling outfit Morning Consult on questions aimed at figuring out independents’ psyche amid impeachment, said Democrats’ sales job just isn’t resonating.

It’s not that they believe Mr. Trump’s defense — indeed, they believe the crux of the case, that the president did attempt to barter U.S. assistance for political help from Ukraine. And they do not find his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “perfect,” as Mr. Trump calls it.

But they see the pursuit of independent as the latest skirmish in an inside-the-beltway game that holds little import for the issues they care about, Vanity Fair concluded.

Quinnipiac’s polling backed up those conclusions.

Voters don’t think Mr. Trump is innocent — 49% said they believe the president did withhold aid from Ukraine for his own political gain. But there’s little chance Democrats can boost support for impeachment, with 86% saying they’ve made up their minds and won’t be swayed.

Jim McLaughlin, a pollster with ties to the Trump campaign team, said he’d talked to some Republicans in Washington who were worried — not about the case against Mr. Trump, but about public opinion, fueled by press coverage that has bordered at times on cheerleading for impeachment.

Yet voters turned out to have other things on their mind.

“It’s like, ‘What are you doing? This isn’t an impeachable offense,’” he said. “This whole impeachment hearing, they look at this as political.”

He said Democrats bungled the effort from the start by putting Mr. Schiff — who has pursued the president from the start of the administration — in charge of the last two weeks of hearings.

“Right now, after Adam Schiff had his rigged trial, you’ve got the same amount of Americans who wanted to impeach him as the day he got elected. Literally,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

He said Democrats know it, too. If they’d won the public over, they’d be moving much faster.

“If they thought they had momentum, they’d be impeaching him right now,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “They had to call time out because even with rigged hearings, things weren’t going well for them.”

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said his party is in better shape than Republicans acknowledge.

“No one should feel any need to get weak-kneed at this time,” he said. “Politically the numbers are just fine. If Republicans want to delude themselves into the fact that Democrats didn’t ‘move the needle,’ that’s fine. But the reality, at least when it comes to the politics of this, Democrats are on fine footing right now — not only with independents but with the country as a whole.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide