Republican Senators will have to decide whether they want to alienate voters by not calling witnesses in the impeachment trial, or whether they want to alienate Donald Trump by calling witnesses. It’s up to them, and they’ll have to live with whatever negative impact it has on their own reelection chances. And we already know the Republicans are all going to vote to acquit Trump in the end. All that said, Trump just lost.
Going into this Senate impeachment trial, there were clear parameters for what would represent a win or loss for Donald Trump. His current approval rating, at roughly 40%, gives him no chance in the 2020 election. The only way he could “win” this trial would be if he came out of it with a significantly higher approval rating, which would put him in contention for 2020. If Trump’s approval rating remains the same or goes down as a result of this trial, he loses – even if he is acquitted.
Because Trump insisted on hiring disgraced low-rent defense attorneys who are merely going to spew conspiracy nonsense aimed at pleasing Trump’s base, there was never any chance that the defense portion of the trial would boost Trump’s approval rating. His only shot at “winning” this trial was if the House Democrats presenting the case ended up doing a poor job in the eyes of those Americans watching at home, or if the Democrats handed Trump something he could use in the court of public opinion.
But as it’s turned out, Adam Schiff and the House managers finished presenting their case tonight, and they’ve gotten rave reviews from most of the public. Trump’s base is whining, but they don’t matter, because their votes are locked in for Trump anyway, and there aren’t nearly enough of them to elect Trump on their own. It’s the people in the middle who matter, the ones who didn’t follow the Ukraine scandal or impeachment saga until it landed in their laps this week on their favorite TV channel. What they saw was an overwhelmingly compelling case for Donald Trump’s guilt.
The window for this trial to boost Donald Trump’s approval rating has now closed. It’s now a given that his approval rating won’t rise as a result of the trial. This means Trump just lost. It’s not clear if he understands this. But he definitely just lost the trial.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report