A little earlier today, my colleague, Bonchie, posted on the decline in support for impeachment. (READ: Support for Impeachment Is Starting to Burn Down.) For the Democrats, for whom impeachment is merely a tool to use for electoral gain, this has to be troubling. Because if impeachment is not a solid majority issue, it is a loser. A major Democrat dark money group, House Majority Forward, produced a study on impeachment and other issues and it should give Nancy Pelosi second thoughts about going down this road. As its name implies, it is focused on maintaining and increasing the Democrats’ majority in the House. They just finished up a series of focus groups in suburban congressional districts that are widely considered to be battlegrounds.
Here is what was said about impeachment and about Trump.
Perceptions of Trump
The core perception voters bring to the discussion of Trump is that he is a businessman, not a politician. Because he is not a politician, the standards that would apply to a politician are not applied to him. His businessman persona also gives him credibility on economic issues, including trade. He is seen as fighting to bring business back to the U.S., which is seen as a good thing. He is also viewed as being personally out of control, while having an agenda that is promoting control – control of the flow of work between the U.S. and abroad, and pro-military and pro-law enforcement.
Perceptions of Trump on a personal level were fairly consistent across the groups: he is seen as both ridiculous and tough. Specifically, he was described as “goofy” and “a joke,” “an egoist” and lacking impulse control. But he is also seen as “strong” and “a New York American” and “brash.” His treatment of women and “womanizing” came up sporadically. Some of the women – college and non-college – found this objectionable but the men seemed to largely minimize the impact of issues related to that aspect of his behavior.
Almost nobody in the groups said they are intentionally following impeachment news. Several are avoiding it. There was a great deal of ambivalence about impeachment and apparently more support for dropping it than pursuing it. The proceeding is seen a dominating the Democrats’ agenda. At least one person in each group could clearly articulate the charge against Trump and Ukraine. No one thought the charges were related to Russia. Voters were divided on whether Trump’s actions were appropriate or not or criminal or not even though they all seemed to agree that the charges involved Trump trying to enlist the Ukraine to “dig up dirt” on Joe Biden. So, the question in their minds was whether the significance of this rises to the level of impeachment and whether this process will dominate the government’s work. The inherent sense of corruption of all politicians allowed space for many to believe that what Trump did was commonplace, and ultimately several were ready to let Trump off the proverbial hook by characterizing the charges as “politics” without digging deeper to determine of the charges are impeachable or not. Few called it a crime although some mentioned he abused his power
This is not a huge shock. The alleged crime President Trump has perpetrated, other than the lèse majesté of defeating Hillary Clinton, is obscure, should one agree that it exists at all, and it is shifting daily based on focus testing (READ: Democrats Try out yet Another Cause for Impeachment in Their Stalinist Show Trial as the Latest One Flounders). The idea of using foreign aid to make other countries do what they are told is not terribly offensive to most people. Fewer still, I imagine, can understand why Hunter Biden gets a free pass when they know they or their offspring would not.
While this is great entertainment for the political press, it doesn’t impress most of America. Most of America feels good about the economy. They feel good about the US disentangling itself from Endless War. They like a president who is unambiguously proud to be American and doesn’t apologize for some perceived fault at the drop of a hat.
Unless something really huge and really understandable comes into view, impeachment is a loser. The crime is nonsense and, to a certain extent, wheeling and dealing is baked into the public’s perception of Trump so, perhaps, they are less offended than they would be by whatever saint Jonah Goldberg and the Bulwark crew are putting forward as an alternative. So, maybe Nancy Pelosi’s threat to drag this out ad infinitum is her way out (READ: Nancy Pelosi Likes Impeachment So Much That She Has No Plans to End It). I don’t know that it will work, but it may be her best option.