Paul Ryan canceled a planned joint appearance
with Trump the next day, noting the “elephant in the room.” Pundits fell over themselves predicting the catastrophic polling fallout with voters that was surely imminent. (As just one example, in the days that followed, this analyst was quoted
on the record as saying, “Look at Paul Ryan today: He is acknowledging what we all know, the race for the White House is over.”)
But Republican voters disagreed. The polling meltdown never came. Paul Ryan was heckled by voters
chanting Trump’s name and screaming, “You turned your back on us.”
And you know what happened next: The RNC predicted defeat
, but Trump won the presidency anyway. Perhaps most tellingly, according to a CBS/YouGov poll
, 91% of Trump’s Ohio voters and 90% of his Pennsylvania voters said the tape didn’t change at all how they viewed Trump.
The GOP establishment was chastened, happy to be back in power, and still unsure where their voters stood on the guy they had just put behind the Resolute Desk.
Fast forward a year and the same thing happened around the Mueller investigation
: GOP senators were initially eager to jump on board with the appointment of a special counsel to look into the allegations of Russian interference and obstruction by the President, Republican voters turned against
it and Trump’s Twitter account has more followers than ever. Those that couldn’t or wouldn’t get on board with the new Republican reality showed themselves out ahead
of the 2018 midterms.
Lesson learned, right? Maybe the President is right that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any support with Republican voters, as he claimed
on the campaign trail in January 2016.
How, then, do we explain why the exact opposite
is happening in the polls this week?
While the Republicans left in Congress are trying to stay out of it
, Republican voters aren’t as quick to dismiss the whistleblower’s allegations as they were to move on from the Mueller Report or the “Access Hollywood” tape. Nearly 1 in 4 such voters approve
of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, per a CBS News poll. And almost half
of GOP voters either want to “wait and see the facts” or already think Trump has done something wrong.
Most surprisingly, support impeachment
has risen 8% among Republicans since May, according to a new poll from CNN. That may sound like small potatoes, but remember that support for removing Nixon among Republican voters — during a far less polarized time and without cable news relentlessly circulating each side’s talking points — topped out
Interestingly, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 80% of Republican voters
are paying very close or fairly close attention to the news about the House impeachment inquiry — higher than Democrats (70%) or Independents (64%).
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Can House Speaker Nancy Pelosi win over House and Senate Republicans on impeachment by convincing them that Trump is vulnerable this time? Probably not — but she doesn’t need to. She just needs to crack the Republican voter firewall enough to convince Republicans in the Senate that this isn’t “Access Hollywood” all over again.
And in the meantime, the President needs to assure his voters, weary of defending him, that the Democratic Lilliputians — for all their endless efforts — will never succeed in restraining him.
Either way, we are at a tipping point. One can almost hear a Republican senator wandering in the hallways
, muttering: “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”