In CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey, released earlier this week, only 37% of Americans approved of President Donald Trump’s job performance. But the devil is always in the details when it comes to polling data. In deep red states like Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Kansas and Idaho, Trump is still quite popular with his hardcore base — impeachment, Ukraine scandal and all — and in a report published in Axios on Friday, Jim VandeHei and David Nather stress that Trump’s “red wall” in the U.S. Senate is showing very few, if any, signs of cracking.
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushing for a swift, fast-paced impeachment inquiry, it’s entirely possible that Trump will end up being indicted on articles of impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives — where many Democrats who were impeachment skeptics or opponents before the Ukraine scandal are now all in favor of impeachment. But VandeHei and Nather assert that if Trump is, at some point, tried in the Senate, he still has a “red wall” that is firmly behind him.
VandeHei and Nather explain, “Here’s a visual look at just how strong that wall is: 51 Republican senators from states Trump won in 2016. He only needs 34 to save him from being convicted and removed from office if the House impeaches him.”
The Axios reporters go on to note which Senate Republicans aren’t part of that “red wall,” and it’s a short list ranging from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado to Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Romney and Sasse are hardcore conservatives who have been highly critical of Trump at times, and VandeHei and Nather point out, “If Mitt Romney or Ben Sasse feel like voting to convict, they can — and it wouldn’t make a difference.”
Trump, they observe, would still have the “red wall” behind him even if Romney, Sasse, Collins and Gardner all voted “guilty” on articles of impeachment.
“The wall gets weaker if you factor in Trump’s approval ratings,” VandeHei and Nather observe. “They’re negative in some of the states he won in 2016. But even if all of those senators jumped ship — which is a stretch — he’d still have more than enough votes to block conviction.”
VandeHei and Nather’s Axios report includes an informative chart that lists which GOP senators are in states where Trump is popular versus which ones are in states where Trump is unpopular, and they use Morning Consult data to gauge where he is popular or unpopular. Among those who are up for reelection in 2020, according to the chart, 15 are in pro-Trump states — while only five are in anti-Trump states.
An interesting footnote: the chart cites Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (who is up for reelection in 2020) as an example of a GOP senator in a state where Trump “is unpopular.” For many years, Arizona was a bastion of Republican conservatism and was closely identified with Sen. Barry Goldwater and Sen. John McCain. But as the chart demonstrates, Arizona (which Trump narrowly won in 2016) has done from red state to swing state. And if McSally loses in 2020, Arizona would have two Democratic senators.
VandeHei discussed the Axios article during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday morning, emphasizing that regardless of the Ukraine scandal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are more pro-Trump than ever.
“Look at what McCarthy is saying, look at what McConnell is saying,” VandeHei told a panel of guests that included former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, MSNBC’s Donny Deutsche and Never Trump conservative and GOP strategist Elise Jordan. “They’re more all in (for Trump) than ever before.”
VandeHei and Nather conclude their Axios piece by stressing that if Trump is eventually tried in the Senate on articles of impeachment, he is almost certain to be acquitted.
“Trump could lose 17 senators from his red wall — or 19 Republicans if Collins and Gardner were in the mix — and still stay in office,” they report. “The bottom line: Trump believes the combination of right-wing media backing and GOP senators’ fear of crossing Trump voters will save him. Right now, there are few noticeable cracks in this wall.”