As I have said before, I think the claim that President Trump’s phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine somehow constitutes an impeachable offense is ridiculous. But impeachment is a political act, not a legal one, and the Democrats’ motives are entirely political. They think that impeaching President Trump will cast a pall of discredit over him and weaken his chances for re-election in 2020. I think that calculation is probably right.
We will see a great deal of impeachment-related poll data in the months to come, but this early survey, reported in the New York Post, suggests that the Democrats are on the right track:
More than 60 percent of Americans believe President Trump’s phone call to the leader of Ukraine asking him to launch an investigation into a 2020 Democratic political rival is “serious,” a poll released Sunday shows.
Of course, that isn’t what President Trump asked Zelensky to do. But reporting on this issue has been even worse than usual.
Forty-three percent said Trump’s outreach to President Volodymyr Zelensky about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter was “very serious,” while 21 percent said it was “somewhat serious,” according to an ABC News/Ipsos Poll.
It found that 19 percent of respondents believe it was “not so serious” and that 17 percent said it was “not serious at all.”
Hardly anyone has read the transcript of the phone call, and hardly anyone ever will. The press’s shorthand characterization of the call–that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden–is the only one that most people will ever hear. I don’t think there would be anything wrong with such a request, in any event, but many people who don’t follow the news closely instinctively believe that smoke means fire.
Will there be a backlash against the Democrats’ overreaching? Sure, but only among Trump loyalists. The question is how news of impeachment impacts 1) swing voters, and 2) turnout. So I think endless yammering about impeaching the president, with wild accusations by the likes of Adam Schiff being reported daily, will indeed damage Trump’s chances of re-election, perhaps decisively.