Trump Is Losing the Most Important Impeachment Battle

October 2019

Andrew Harnik / AP

By Jacob Sugarman

On Thursday, President Donald Trump stood before the White House press corps, an Air Force One helicopter whirring nearby, and committed the very offense that has triggered his impeachment investigation. Then he appeared to commit another impeachable offense for good measure. “I would think that if they were honest about it, [the Ukrainian government] would start a major investigation into the Bidens,” he said. “It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. Because how does a company that’s newly formed, and all these companies, if you look at it. … And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

If the president sounded panicked or otherwise out of it, he had good reason to be. According to a new poll from USA Today/Ipsos, 45% of the country now supports a House vote of impeachment, against 38% who do not. Perhaps more telling, 44% believe that if the Senate were to try the president, he should be convicted and removed from office. Just 35% believe he should be acquitted.

“The survey of 1,006 adults, taken Tuesday and Wednesday, underscores the perilous situation the president finds himself in as House committees subpoena documents and prepare to hear testimony into accusations that he pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate a political rival, then tried to hide the account of their phone conversation,” writes Susan Page of USA Today. Page also offers this “warning sign” for the president:

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say there isn’t enough reliable information to decide whether he should be impeached. That leaves open the possibility that dramatic disclosures and persuasive evidence could convince some in Trump’s own party that impeachment is warranted.

Only so much can be extrapolated about the national mood from a single poll, but these numbers are largely consistent with current trend lines. The latest data from Quinnipiac indicate an even split on impeachment among registered voters at 47%—good for a net 20-point swing in favor over a five-day period—while a CBS poll released Sunday finds Americans approve by a margin of 55% to 45%. FiveThirtyEight, which relies on a weighted average of hundreds of polls, indicates that Trump’s approval rating has dipped from 43% to 41% since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry a little over a week ago.

It’s still early, and the Democrats’ latest gambit may yet backfire. Similarly, Hunter Biden’s involvement in a Ukrainian energy company, described aptly by Sarah Chayes in The Atlantic as a “perfectly legal, socially acceptable form of corruption,” could haunt them in the 2020 election. But right now, Trump is losing the impeachment battle that matters most for his political future—the one held in the court of public opinion.