Advice for a Former President: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

If I had been in the company of former President Barack Obama over the past week, I would have suggested that he call the three former advisors who have been generally regarded as pivotal in assisting his successful run for the presidency against the “Clinton Machine” in 2008: David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Robert Gibbs. I would have suggested that he ask each to provide him an assessment of the seven remaining Democratic presidential candidates’ respective chances, first, for winning the Democratic nomination, and then, for the candidates considered to have a realistic chance to secure the nomination, their respective chances for winning the presidency.

If Messrs. Alexrod, Plouffe, and Gibbs provided dim assessments to Mr. Obama similar to those expressed in Part I of this note regarding the nomination prospects for Messrs. Steyer and Buttiegieg and Mses. Klobuchar and Warren, and of Mr. Bloomberg’s questionable ability to amass a winning November Democratic coalition, I would then have suggested that Mr. Obama ask his advisors: How many of the Swing States can Sen. Sanders reasonably win? How likely is Mr. Sanders’ strategy to “expand the electorate” to win the Rust Belt states won by Mr. Trump in 2016 (as well as retain Minnesota and Colorado), when his calls for revolution may be as likely to repel older voters as they are to enlist younger voters? How likely is Mr. Sanders to win the presidency when he is prone to comments that alienate key constituencies, such as recently happened with Florida, a state that Mr. Trump only won by 1.2%, when he complimented the deceased Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro? How well is Mr. Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, going to fare in southerly North Carolina or individualistic Arizona?

If Messrs. Axelrod, Plouffe, and Gibbs could offer no greater assurance of Mr. Sanders’ chances than, “He has a committed base. Anything can happen. Look at Trump.”, I would indicate to Mr. Obama that he has a duty to act – as soon as possible — for the good of the nation. I would assert that Mr. Biden remains the Democrats’ strongest candidate in the general election. Mr. Obama should:

Call Mr. Steyer, and tell him that if Mr. Steyer truly cares about defeating Mr. Trump, he should immediately fold his candidacy. Mr. Obama would indicate his intention to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden that, even if short of a formal endorsement, any voter would understand.

Call Mr. Buttigieg, congratulate him on an extraordinary campaign, and tell him that Mr. Obama would use his influence with any Democrat President to secure a major post for Mr. Buttigieg in the Democratic administration to further his future political prospects … provided that Mr. Buttigieg immediately folds his candidacy. He would also advise Mr. Buttigieg of his intent to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden.

Call Ms. Klobuchar, congratulate her on a successful campaign, and indicate that Mr. Obama would speak highly of her as a Vice Presidential nominee to any Democrat that secures the nomination … provided that Ms. Klobuchar immediately folds her candidacy. He would also advise Ms. Klobuchar of his intent to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden.

Finally, call Mr. Bloomberg, and thank him profusely for his financial contributions to the Democratic effort, and ask that Mr. Bloomberg continue with those efforts; but that he, Mr. Obama, based upon his and his advisors’ knowledge of politics, doesn’t believe that Mr. Bloomberg can amass the enthusiastic coalition that Democrats need to defeat Mr. Trump. He would also advise Mr. Bloomberg of his intent to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden. He would ask (you don’t speak peremptorily to a billionaire whose funds you need, even if you’re a former President of the United States) that Mr. Bloomberg fold his candidacy and devote his efforts and resources to Mr. Biden.

Such an overt effort on Mr. Obama’s part would smack of an establishment partisan power play against Mr. Sanders reminiscent of 2016. It would undoubtedly wildly antagonize the Progressive wing of the party. It’s an extraordinary step, to be taken only if there is consensus among the seasoned political operatives who managed Mr. Obama’s ascendency to the presidency that Mr. Sanders has little chance to defeat Mr. Trump in Swing States. Offensive? Almost certainly. Wildly counterproductive? Perhaps. But a sharp cut to the Democratic viscera with months to cauterize and dress the wound – and to give Mr. Sanders and disappointed progressives the time to recall that Mr. Trump is the adversary, and what happened in 2016 when some of them stayed home in a huff — seems preferable to slow political exsanguination with Mr. Sanders. Democrats shouldn’t rely on being saved by a second major electoral upset in the space of four years unless they have to.

Clearly, many of us are concerned about the Democrats’ November prospects if Mr. Sanders is the presidential nominee. Attached is a link to a New York Times article by Thomas Friedman, recently sent me by a close friend, suggesting that the Democrats form a “Team of Rivals” headed by either Mr. Sanders or Mr. Bloomberg and including many of the Democrats’ presidential candidates. Although I am not as confident as Mr. Friedman that his approach would result in a Democratic landslide, his idea is superior to mine since, if implemented, it would engender amity and a cohesive electoral strategy between the two wings of the Democratic Party rather than fractious discord. That said, I question its efficacy. Assuming that the moderate Democrats privately agree that Mr. Sanders will have difficulty defeating Mr. Trump, their dueling ambitions are strangling America.  Mr. Sanders, an authentic True Believer with the nomination seemingly within his reach, presumably considers this his last chance to bring about a vision of America that almost certainly doesn’t encompass alliances with billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg. That said, either Mr. Friedman’s approach or mine would seem to require a willingness by Mr. Obama to actively intervene in the Democrats’ nominating contest – which,  if it was to occur, should already be well underway; and of which we’ve seen no indication.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/opinion/democratic-primary-candidates.html

Advice for a Former President: Part I

[Note: this was written prior to the Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate scheduled for February 25, 2020; while it is conceivable that something uttered in that debate changes the dynamic of the Democratic Presidential contest, such seems unlikely.]

Although many commentators – including me – have focused on the narrowness of President Trump’s 2016 victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the “Blue Wall” states that had been expected to provide Sec. Clinton her victory, the Electoral College (“EC”) victor’s margin in all of the 10 most closely-contested states was relatively narrow. Mr. Trump won: Michigan (16 EC; .3%); Wisconsin (10 EC; 1%); Pennsylvania (20 EC; 1.2%); Florida (29 EC; 1.2%); North Carolina (15 EC; 3.8%); and Arizona (11 EC; 3.9%) – 101 EC votes, roughly a third of his 304 total. Ms. Clinton won: New Hampshire (4 EC; .4%); Minnesota (10 EC; 1.5%); Nevada (6 EC; 2.4%); and Maine (4 EC; 2.7%) – 24 of her runner-up 227 EC total. For assessing any 2020 presidential hopeful’s prospects, I would submit that one could add to this group Colorado (9 EC), Iowa (6 EC), and Virginia (13 EC). Ms. Clinton won both Colorado and Virginia by about 5 points, but each 2016 result could have been skewed in her favor by factors that won’t be relevant in 2020 – Libertarian Gary Johnson took 5% of the 2016 Colorado vote, the majority of which arguably would have gone to Mr. Trump, and Ms. Clinton’s running mate, U.S. VA Sen. Tim Kaine, presumably boosted the ticket’s margin in the Old Dominion. On the other hand, although Mr. Trump won Iowa by 9 points, polls indicate that he currently has a markedly high disapproval rating in the Hawkeye State, presumably making it a 2020 Democratic target. It appears reasonable to suggest that 2020 Presidential election will be decided by the outcomes in these 13 states – all, arguably “Swing States.”

The Democratic Candidate Debate in Nevada on February 19 was disheartening. It appeared an ego-driven, doctrinaire spite fight which seemingly greatly enhanced the prospects for U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, perhaps devastated the chances of former New York, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and didn’t meaningfully help any other candidate. In the days prior to the South Carolina primary, of the seven remaining candidates, I would suggest:

Businessman Tom Steyer has spent millions making himself known, and hasn’t made a meaningful dent in the polls. His has become an ego-driven crusade with no chance of securing the nomination. Ironically, for a candidate who has been proclaiming the loudest for the longest of the dangers presented by Mr. Trump, he appears intent on taking a significant percentage of the black vote in South Carolina from former Vice President Joe Biden, thus ensuring any Biden victory will be narrow and in effect providing another boost to Mr. Sanders. Mr. Steyer is confusing the race.

Former South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg has run a masterful race, but has failed to garner any meaningful minority support. No Democrat can win the White House without enthusiastic minority support. The African American community’s depressed turnout for Ms. Clinton in 2016 was a factor in her defeat, and it’s hard to envision that community rallying any more enthusiastically for Mr. Buttigieg.  It’s difficult to see him eking out the nomination against the respective strengths of Messrs. Sanders, Bloomberg, and former Vice President Joe Biden. At this point, Mr. Buttigieg is confusing the race.

U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar has run a strong race. In retrospect, a win in Iowa (instead of a fifth-place finish) plus her strong results in New Hampshire might have propelled her candidacy; but she, also, has failed to garner any meaningful black support. Although I consider her the most qualified Democratic candidate for the presidency aside from Mr. Biden, there appears no path to the nomination for her. At this point, Ms. Klobuchar is confusing the race.

U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also run a strong technical campaign. That said, and although national pundits that venture what I am about to state are pilloried by the Woke Brigade, Ms. Warren, for all her intelligence and background, seems divisive, hectoring, and self-righteous to many of our people. Her reported recent criticism of Mr. Bloomberg’s height is Trumpian. Her candidacy arguably died when she finished fourth in New Hampshire, neighboring her Massachusetts. Presumably, she’s acting as an ideological “Team Player,” recognizing that as long as she stays in the race, she gets media coverage to attack Mr. Bloomberg, which greatly benefits Mr. Sanders (and may unintentionally also assist the candidacy of Mr. Biden).

While one can never count out the value of hundreds of millions of dollars of media advertising, I would offer that Mr. Bloomberg’s obvious failure to prepare appropriately for the Nevada debate, taken together with Ms. Warren’s withering attacks on him, cast severe doubt upon his chances of winning the presidency if not the nomination. While blacks, practical and savvy voters, could look past Mr. Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk” difficulties in order to rid the nation of Mr. Trump, I seriously question whether either the ideological purists supporting Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren – who will consider Mr. Bloomberg, if he wins, to have bought the nomination — or “Me Too” Movement members – hearing what can reasonably be expected to be a steady stream of reports of Mr. Bloomberg’s inappropriately suggestive behavior while running his business — will vote for the former Mayor in sufficient numbers in November to unseat Mr. Trump.

If Mr. Sanders does well in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, he appears well on his way to securing the Democrats’ presidential nomination. The advice I would render if I could to a former President of the United States in Part II.

It’s Donald Trump

For generations it was held that to win the U.S. presidency, a candidate had to reach beyond his party’s ardent adherents and secure the majority of the vote of the American political center. In 1992, the Clinton Campaign famously declared its overriding focus: “The Economy, Stupid.” In recent days, I have heard former South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg intone: “To win the presidency, it’s not enough to tell people what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for.”

Sometimes … maxims are wrong. In 1980, Americans turned to the unnerving “Mad Bomber,” Ronald Reagan, because they had no confidence in President Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush and his strategist, Karl Rove, won in 2004 through a strategy of focusing almost exclusively on energizing and turning out Mr. Bush’s core supporters.

I have heard more than one pundit voice something that all Americans can agree upon: anyone that mounts a campaign for the presidency has a huge ego. What’s more, the Democratic candidates on the stage Wednesday night, aside from former New York, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have all been on the trail for at least a year, and their respective beliefs in themselves have undoubtedly been reinforced by the fact they have thus far survived in a brutal contest that has felled 15 or more other candidates. In his book, Marathon, Jules Witcover described a campaign for president: “It is a grueling, debilitating, and often dehumanizing ordeal ….” I suspect that their inner faiths now include a visceral feeling that because each has absorbed so much adversity, s/he deserves the presidency.  These gut inclinations are now arguably augmented by envy and resentment toward Mr. Bloomberg, who has surpassed most of them in the national polls through profligate use of his essentially unlimited means. I fear that the debate will degenerate into a mud-slinging scrum that benefits only President Trump.

This week, Wall Street Journal Columnist Gerald Seib laid out the dichotomy between the respective theories of the campaigns of U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg:

“Mr. Sanders believes Democratic voters are ready to overthrow the system. Mr. Bloomberg thinks they merely want to overthrow President Trump….[T]he fact that Mr. Sanders is running against Mr. Trump is almost secondary; the Sanders view of society’s economic injustices is the same one he would be offering regardless of who was on the Republican line….Mr. Bloomberg touts [his positions on] health care … gun laws and battling climate change. But … [t]he animating argument is that Mr. Trump is dangerous … that beating Mr. Trump is way more important than ideological arguments.”

As anyone that reads these pages recognizes, my sentiments echo those attributed to Mr. Bloomberg. This year, it’s not the economy. The general perception – whether or not accurate – is that Mr. Trump’s economy is booming. Yet his approval rating is below 45%. In Wisconsin, his disapproval rating is 10 points higher than his approval rating despite a state unemployment rate of 3.3%. He is 12 points under water in Michigan despite an unemployment rate of 4.1%. He is 9 points under water in Iowa despite a state unemployment rate of 2.6%. He is at best even in the other swing states although all have unemployment rates below 5%.

Mr. Trump’s low approval rating is presumably not related to Americans’ perception – again, whether or not accurate – of our national health care system. A significant majority of the states that U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate have the highest percentages of uninsured will almost certainly be won by Mr. Trump in 2020.

Mr. Trump’s low approval rating is presumably not related to Americans’ perception – again, whether or not accurate – of his handling of foreign policy. He has been making good on his campaign pledge – whether or not wisely – to reduce the level of America’s foreign entanglements.

One could add to this list, but three is enough. Mr. Trump’s low approval rating is because … it’s him. A majority of Americans have at least tentatively concluded that Mr. Trump is unworthy of his office: that he has no regard for truth, with demonstrable indications of racism, sexism, and religious bigotry; that he seems an unstable, incompetent bully; that he relishes in stirring division and openly welcomes the assistance of foreign enemies for his own ends. They are concerned that he apparently considers himself unrestricted by all norms, rules, and laws. They are bothered by his evident contempt for the institutions and practices that have made us different from the rest of the world – an honest judicial system, a free press and free speech, respectful disagreement — and for those that act with honor, conviction, and principle – such as John McCain, Purple Heart Recipient Alexander Vindman, and Mitt Romney. They are troubled by his clear willingness to trample anything that gets in his way. They inherently know that it is wrong for an American President to use his power against a domestic political adversary, and they know he did. They inherently know that it is inappropriate for a President to financially profit from the responsibility that they have entrusted to him, and they know he does. They are uneasy with the notion that even if they are not in the crosshairs today – as he has focused his venom on his critics, brown immigrants, and Muslims – they could be tomorrow. They have come to realize that Mr. Trump is, in the words of another Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan: “A bad man, and half mad.” That he is, indeed … un-American.

So while I concede that no Democratic candidate can spend all of his or her time addressing the stain that Mr. Trump has placed on our national fabric, I nonetheless submit that in this campaign year, Mr. Buttigieg is wrong: the Democrats’ key to victory is not what they’re for, it’s what they’re against. It’s Donald Trump. If in tonight’s debate the candidates too pointedly attack each other, it will seem to me a counterproductive ego trip. If they aggressively attack Mr. Bloomberg, it will demonstrate almost criminal political incompetence: the only way that any Democrat will be able to counter Mr. Trump’s overwhelming financial advantage in the fall is through maintaining Mr. Bloomberg’s largesse. They should put aside individual ambition for the good of the nation.

Impeachment Impressions from a Hemisphere Away

While the Senate impeachment trial unfolded in Washington, we were half a world away, visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on a trip planned months before. While south of the equator, we were only vaguely aware of the reports that former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book included allegations directly implicating President Trump in the events at issue in the Impeachment trial, of the controversy surrounding Trump Defense Lawyer Alan Dershowitz’ bizarre argument in the president’s defense, and of the speculation as to whether the Senate would call additional witnesses.

One of the highlights of our visit was a tour of Rio’s historic district, Centro, provided to us by Daniel, an extremely personable and truly trilingual Carioca. (I came to the city understanding that all Rio residents were Cariocas; with a twinkle in his eye, Daniel advised me that one needs to be born in Rio to truly be considered a Carioca; mere Rio residence, no matter how lengthy, is not enough to qualify.) He quickly felt like a friend. He has an extensive background in Brazilian history. Well into the tour, I asked him about an article that had run that week in the major Brazilian daily, O Globo, which reported that Transparency International had placed Brazil in the bottom half of all of the world’s countries in its Corruptions Perceptions Index. (Full Disclosure: O Globo is published in Portuguese; this was the only article I could decipher all week because “corrupcao” readily translates to “corruption,” and the piece depicted by graph Brazil’s corruption ranking among the world’s nations.)

Brazilians have contempt for most of their politicians, due to the country’s level of corruption. Of their three prior presidents, one has been convicted of corruption, a second faces charges for leading a “criminal organization,” and the third has been impeached within a context that she had served as Chairwoman of Petrobras, the semi-public Brazilian oil and gas company, at a time when billions derived from Petrobras operations were illicitly changing hands at Brazilians’ expense. Other Brazilian officials are in prison due to illegal enrichment related to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Daniel hadn’t seen the O Globo article, but wasn’t surprised by it; he is angry at the level of corruption in his country. As an example, he pointed to the new train tracks at our feet, installed in the historic district’s cobblestone streets prior to the Olympics to facilitate transportation during the Games, and indicated that the project ended up costing Brazilians millions of Brazilian Real (R$) more than necessary, due to kickbacks. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current right-wing President elected in 2018. President Bolsonaro is a nationalist and a populist. As widely reported, Mr. Bolsonaro is skeptical of environmentalists’ claims about the Amazon, and favors more development in the region. He opposes socialism and LBGT rights. But Daniel made a passing reference only to Mr. Bolsonaro’s positions on the Amazon, instead emphasizing a factor rarely mentioned in the Western media: Mr. Bolsonaro appears to be honest – a unicorn in Brazilian politics. Although a member of the Brazilian national legislature for decades, he was not tainted by any of the scandals that have felled his predecessors. He ran on a pledge to reduce crime and root out corruption. Daniel believes his country has greatness within it. He sees that it can only be achieved through honest government.

The contrast between Daniel’s belief in Mr. Bolsonaro’s honesty and Daniel’s aspirations for his nation, on one hand, and Mr. Trump’s tribal-driven impeachment acquittal, on the other, could not be starker. U.S. TN Sen. Lamar Alexander stated before the vote: “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this … The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did …. [Mr. Trump’s removal via impeachment] would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist …. Let the people decide [Emphasis Added].”

U.S. NE Sen. Ben Sasse stated: “Let me be clear, Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

U.S. FL Sen. Marco Rubio stated: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office. I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation. [Emphasis Added].”

While there is certainly merit to the argument that Mr. Trump’s removal from office via impeachment could incite potentially irreparable divisions between our people – an apprehension held by one very close to me – I would nonetheless submit that for Senators who have taken an oath to protect the Constitution, such concern should have been irrelevant, and is no more than a self-serving rationale designed to protect the Senator’s own political position and/or legacy. Messrs. Rubio and Sasse, and those Republican Senators whom Mr. Sasse claimed Mr. Alexander “spoke for,” have, as was the case with former Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, abdicated the responsibility placed upon them by the Constitution rather than confront Mr. Trump. We are sacrificing to partisanship, greed, and fear our dedication to right, truth, and justice that the Brazilian tour guide and billions around the world yearn for: the very characteristic that actually made us great.

On Senator Mitt Romney

Although I suspect that most that wish to have already heard U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney’s speech on the Senate floor, setting forth his rationale in voting to convict President Trump under the Article of Impeachment alleging that the President had abused the power of his office, a link to the speech is set forth below. If you haven’t heard it, take the eight minutes to listen to it in its entirety. (I would submit that it is worth another eight minutes even if you have.)  Among his remarks, Sen. Romney offered the following:

“I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am [Senator’s pause]. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”

“The defense argues that the Senate should leave the impeachment decision to the voters. While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the President …. The people will judge [Senators] for how well and faithfully we perform our duty.”

“I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision and in some quarters I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?”

“[W]ith my vote I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me … We are all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that distinction is enough for any citizen.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siWFNYgnJdE

We watched the speech live. I was and remain moved by the faith and patriotism infused within it. I indicated to TLOML that I would prefer Sen. Romney as President over anyone now running from any party. Her reaction was more profound: “He’s a real man.”

Anyone that pays any attention to the hyper-partisan political environment in which we live is acutely aware of the virulent attacks and physical threats Mr. Romney and his family will face for as long as Mr. Trump retains his now cult-like grasp of the Republican Party. For what little it is worth – I have no illusions that I have much influence with the Almighty — I will say a prayer that they will have strength, and that their faith will sustain them. May the following provide them with greater comfort:

“How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen … Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. This is why the law is benumbed, and judgment is never rendered: Because the wicked circumvent the just …

Then the Lord answered me and said:

‘For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.’”

Habakkuk 1:2-4; 2:2-4

Nancy’s Percolating Brew … and a Pitch for Mitch: a Postscript

No one that watched the commencement of the Senate’s impeachment proceedings on January 16 could miss the solemnity of the occasion. It was striking to watch 99 Senators solemnly swear to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws.” The contrast between the Senators’ oath and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments, prior to the beginning of the trial, that he would coordinate closely with the White House in conducting the proceedings … was jarring.

In mid-November, in the post cited above, I referred to a solicitation that I had then recently received from U.S. IA Sen. Charles Grassley, seeking campaign contributions not for his benefit, but to aid the campaign of Sen. McConnell. I observed that it seemed odd for Mr. McConnell to be reaching all the way into the Midwest for support, and noted that a close friend much closer to the Bluegrass State than I am considers Mr. McConnell more vulnerable than those of us outside the region might assume. Mr. McConnell may attempt to rationalize the dichotomy between his comments and his oath, but I would submit that to people on figurative Main Street in the “Flyover Country” that the Republicans claim to represent – and perhaps in Lexington, Louisville, and Paducah – he looks like a liar. If Kentucky Democrats don’t run endless ads highlighting the contrast between Mr. McConnell’s comments about his impeachment coordination with the White House and his oath to do “impartial justice” in the Senate trial … I fear that they are passing up a significant opportunity.

Impeachment Attitudes and Electoral Reckoning

A Marist/PBS/NPR (“Marist”) Poll released on January 15, recording responses during the period, January 7 – 12, 2020, found that participants answering the question, “Based on what you know at this point, do you support or oppose the U.S. Senate removing President Trump from office?”, were evenly divided – 47% supporting removal, 47% opposed, and a mere 6% undecided. Not surprisingly, those that supported or opposed Mr. Trump’s removal were heavily skewed along party affiliation. Self-described independents were almost evenly divided, with 45% of this group supporting removal, and 47% opposed. Some have opined that these numbers are an indication that the President currently enjoys 2020 electoral strength among our people roughly equivalent to the percentage that oppose him.

I’m not so sure. I seriously question whether Mr. Trump can rely on the electoral support of all of those that oppose having him removed from office by an impeachment conviction. My inclination is partly driven by the anecdotal, partly from looking closely at the Marist poll.

I would submit that there is a segment of the electorate that strongly disagrees with Mr. Trump’s conduct of the presidency, but believes that he should be removed at the ballot box rather than through what has apparently degenerated into a partisan process. TLOML and I know two discerning Wisconsin citizens – who don’t know each other – who each voted against former WI Gov. Scott Walker in 2010, 2014, and 2018, but voted for him in the 2012 recall because they felt that Mr. Walker’s 2010 election had duly authorized him to effect his policies.

More recently, another Wisconsin resident, who has indicated that she will vote for any Democrat against Mr. Trump, told me that she strongly opposes the President’s removal via impeachment because she thinks that it would cause even greater acrimony among our people at a time that she believes we need healing and reconciliation. She was also concerned that if Vice President Mike Pence succeeded to the presidency, he might be tougher for a Democrat to beat than Mr. Trump.

This attitude, if held by a notable percentage of those opposing Mr. Trump’s impeachment-related removal, don’t bode well for the President’s electoral fortunes.

Finally, there are the detailed results of the Marist poll itself, a link to which is provided below. Seemingly of most interest in determining the correlation (or lack thereof) between the electorate’s attitude about the President’s impeachment-related removal and his 2020 electoral support are the respondents that identify as Independents, the segment presumably including most of our people who are not already irrevocably committed or opposed to the President, and those from the Midwest, home to three states that may hold the pivotal 2020 Electoral College votes. Both segments register significant contrasts in their attitudes toward Mr. Trump’s removal by impeachment and their assessment of his performance in office.

When asked whether the Senate should remove the President via impeachment, Independents were narrowly opposed to removal, 45% supporting to 47% opposed. At the same time, when asked whether they approved or disapproved of Mr. Trump’s performance in office, their sentiment flipped markedly – only 39% of Independents approved, while 55% disapproved – a fairly stunning 16% differential. Furthermore, only 24% of the approvers “strongly approved” of the President’s performance, while 41% of the disapprovers “strongly disapproved” – a 17-point enthusiasm differential. I suspect that Republicans find these sobering electoral numbers.

The responses Marist gathered from the arguably crucial Midwest segment of our electorate yields a similar dichotomy, although not as pronounced as among Independents. Midwesterners opposed the President’s removal by impeachment by 5 points, 44% supporting to 49% opposed. At the same time, when asked whether they approved or disapproved of Mr. Trump’s performance in office, Midwesterners disapproved by an 8 points margin, 44% approving, 52% disapproving. The enthusiasm gap also appears meaningful among Midwesterners: while 31% of the approvers “strongly approved” of the President’s performance, 41% of the disapprovers “strongly disapproved.”

http://maristpoll.marist.edu/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-poll-results-13/#sthash.DWlueOov.bo3Ck9ty.dpbs

It would seem that the decisive Election Day margin could come from those in key constituencies that currently oppose the President’s ouster via impeachment but disapprove of his handling of the presidency. While the Democrats’ eventual nominee will undoubtedly be the primary factor influencing the voters in this persuadable segment, perhaps the Democrats’ most important strategy in the upcoming Senate trial is to avoid an overtly-partisan presentation that will alienate them.