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“Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” on Impeachment, Election – Sunday Political Brunch - December 22, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – To no one’s surprise, the House of Representatives has impeached President Trump on two articles. The Constitutional process now moves on to the Senate for trial. But this is more than just about President Trump’s actions in office. It has lots of political implications for the 2020 election. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Boy Was I Wrong!” – As a political analyst, I take an educated guess on how things will play out. With 43 years’ experience covering politics, I usually have a pretty good radar. Last week I predicted, in an act of political self-preservation, upwards of 15 Democrats would vote “no” on impeachment, mostly 2018 freshman who won districts that Trump carried in 2016. There are about 30 seats like this. But in the end, only two Democrats cast “no” votes on impeachment. So, my prediction was way off.

“Why is That?” – It’s interesting, because many of these Democrats in marginal districts may be in political trouble in areas where Trump is popular. Did they just commit political suicide, or will standing on principles carry them to reelection? It will be fascinating to watch. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi basically told her members to “roll the dice” and take their chances. The safe, calculated, political choice would be to let enough of these folks bolt the party and vote “no” just to save their own vulnerable seats. Instead, the “yes” vote is a bold political gamble that could cost Pelosi her majority, or embolden it to further success with its agenda, especially if Trump is reelected. Just fascinating!!!

“Déjà vu, All Over Again” – The classic Yogi Berra line holds true in baseball and politics. For some in Congress this impeachment is not their first rodeo. The most fascinating is Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) California, who may be the only person in U.S. history to work on three impeachments. In 1974, she was a Congressional staff member to long-time Rep. Don Edwards (D) California, who served on the House Judiciary Committee, working on President Nixon’s impeachment. Elected to Congress in 1994, she was on the committee considering impeachment articles against President Clinton, and then again, this year for President Trump. Lofgren, whom I’ve known and covered for years, scores the “impeachment hat trick!”

“And Then There are More” – President Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998. President Trump was impeached a day short of 21-years December 18, 2019. In both cases, the House said “yes” to two articles of impeachment but heading into the Senate trial we know that on both occasions there were not enough votes to remove either from office. NOTE TO CONGRESS: Political impeachments during December are a bad idea. First, the season has a lot to do with redemption and forgiveness, plus people are full-bore into the holidays and not really focused on politics. Only two of four impeachments had the desired result. President Andrew Johnson was impeached in May of 1868, and lost renomination two months later. The House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in August 1975, and he resigned days later.

“Political Implications?” – You need a two-thirds vote in the Senate, or 67 votes, to remove a president from office. Right now, the Senate is 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats. In theory, 20 Republicans would have to join with a unanimous minority caucus (not a safe bet), to remove Trump from office. Here are five Republicans who could bolt. Sen. Susan Collins (R) Maine is up for reelection in 2020. She may be the most liberal Senate Republican. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee, is retiring so he can just cast “a vote of conscience” without facing the wrath of voters. Sen. Mitt Romney (R) Utah does not like Trump but would have no political risk in voting for removal. Sen. Cory Gardner (R) Colorado is the most at risk of losing his seat in 2020, so he’d be a safe “yes” on removing Trump. Sen. Martha McSally (R) Arizona is trying to hold her appointed seat in 2020, but upsetting Arizona Republicans could get her defeated in a key swing state. Still, these represent only five votes, far short of the 20 needed.

Are you a “yes” or “no” on removing President Trump from office? Just click the comment button and tell us why!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five surrounding states, plus most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Phot courtesy: U.S House TV & Radio Gallery

The Political Strategies of Impeachment – “Sunday Political Brunch” - December 15, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The nation is sharply divided on whether President Trump should be impeached, or not. Whatever side you take is your prerogative and I’m not here to support or dissuade either argument – except to say some of the points on both sides have merit, while others are silly. That’s politics! What I’d rather focus in on is the strategy from each side. This may be a Constitutional process, but it can’t escape the political implications. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“The Democrat’s Dilemma” – The current breakdown of the 435-member House is 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, 1 Independent, and 4 vacant seats. You need a simple majority of 218 votes to pass an article of impeachment. Now Democrats came to power in 2018 by winning about 30 seats in toss-up districts that Donald Trump carried in 2016. The leadership will likely “allow” up to 15 Democrats to vote “no” on impeachment, so that they can save their own seats, and preserve the overall Democratic majority in the House. The House may indeed pass articles of impeachment by the slimmest of majorities.

“Republican Redux?” – If the above scenario sounds a bit cynical, well it is. But are Democrats doing something new? Hardly! Republicans have done similar. Back in 1996, two years after Republicans seized the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, the GOP faced a dilemma. With President Clinton steaming towards a second term, there were concerns his coattails might pull Democrats back in charge of the House. In order to preserve his majority, House Speaker Newt Gingrich told a handful of moderate-to-liberal House Republicans to run against him if they needed. In fact, they could trash Gingrich – and some did – if that would help them get reelected. Crazy you say? No, Gingrich needed their votes on big deal items like the budget. And he needed them to win to stay in power. It worked as the GOP held the House.

“Gee, Oh? People Concerns” – While it seems a foregone conclusion that Democrats will impeach President Trump, there don’t appear to be the 67 votes in the Senate to remove him from office. But that doesn’t remove the political pressure. Republicans hold a thin 53 to 47 majority in the U.S. Senate. But Republicans are at a strategic disadvantage. They will defend 23 seats in 2020, while Democrats will defend just 12. That imbalance bodes well for the minority party which only needs a net gain of 3 or 4 seats to retake control of the Senate.

“Trump v. McConnell” – How the impeachment trial will go in the Senate is the subject of much speculation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would very much like to call the Senate into session and immediately make a motion to acquit, which would likely pass. But President Trump is wanting a lengthy trial in which he can call witness to testify, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Not only does Trump want vindication, he wants the political leverage of securing his own base, and perhaps reaching a good number of independents who view the impeachment process as a colossal waste of time and money.

“Be Careful What You Wish For!” – First of all, a quick trial and acquittal from McConnell’s Senate Republicans could backfire if the public feels like “the fix was in.” And remember, McConnell is one of those 23 Republicans up for re-election in 2020. Plus, if it looks like he coordinated his quick “song and dance” with the While House, Democrats will cry jury tampering, since the Senate is acting as the jury! If they go with Trump’s lengthy trial strategy, there could be pluses and minuses. Obviously, a long trial, say from January through April, could freeze the Democratic presidential candidates who are also Senators, and that helps Trump. But if Trump appears so focused on his lengthy trail, what else will get done in Washington? Likely nothing – as we learned from Bill Clinton’s impeachment - and that potentially hurts Trump.

“The Side Show” – The problem for all sides in this is that there is other business to attend to. Yes, on the very day the House Judiciary Committee passed two articles of impeachment against Trump, the China-U.S. trade war was seemingly fixed. That looks like Trump is busy working and getting stuff done. On the other hand, the U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal still needs to get fixed, and then there’s that pesky continuing resolution to keep the government funded and open beyond the Friday deadline. If Trump and the Senate can’t get this done, they’ll be labeled the “Do Nothing Republicans” by Democrats.

“The Parallels of History” – As I wrote about a few weeks ago, Trump’s impeachment is more like President Andrew Johnson’s, and less like Presidents Nixon and Clinton whose impeachment inquiries began after they were elected to a second terms. Trump and Johnson were facing impeachment within their reelection year. Johnson’s trial dragged into May, and he was so wounded (though not removed from office), that he lost his renomination effort just two months later in July. Perhaps this is another reason why Trump needs a shorter - not longer - trial, if he is to survive politically.

To impeach, or not impeach? Please weigh in with your position and reason, by clicking the comment button.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

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