Friday, January 31, 2020


I've never believed that there'd be witnesses in Senate impeachment trial, so Lamar Alexander's decision to vote no on witnesses, announced last night, doesn't surprise me at all. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney will vote for witnesses, so it will be a 49-51 vote -- not 50-50, which means John Roberts will be spared the awkwardness of having to reveal his own partisan hackery in his inevitable decision either to break the tie in the GOP's favor or to declare that a tie means the motion fails. Then comes the acquittal. That's impeachment, folks. Hope you enjoyed it.

There won't be any Republican votes to convict, but it's likely that there'll be at least one Democratic vote to acquit. Today The New York Times assesses the possible Democratic defectors. Here's the headline:
Spotlight Falls on Democrats From Trump-Friendly States
I don't like the way this is framed. It's true that two of the possible Democratic votes to acquit are from states that are very pro-Trump: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama. I assumed Manchin would vote to acquit even before the Ukraine scandal broke. (He does seem likely to vote for witnesses.) Jones is another story -- he seems to know that he was lucky to win his seat, and he generally appears to vote his principles, on the assumption that he's a long shot to win again no matter what he does. (He voted no on Brett Kavanaugh, for instance.) I think there's a good chance he'll vote to convict, at least one charge, possibly on both.
“I’m still looking at that very closely,” Mr. Jones said, without elaborating. “There are some things that trouble me about it. But I will tell you this about the obstruction charge: The more I see the president of the United States attacking witnesses, the stronger that case gets.”

Later, after a spate of news articles about him, Mr. Jones backtracked: “Don’t go putting some damn headline in there, ‘Still open to acquit.’ I’m open to acquit. I’m open to convict. I want to hear all the evidence. I want to hear witnesses.”
Democratic acquittal votes could also come from Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Gary Peters of Michigan. Are their states truly "Trump-friendly"? Both voted for Trump in 2016 -- barely, in the case of Michigan -- but Trump's approval rating in both states is underwater, according to both Morning Consult and Civiqs. Trump's approval/disapproval numbers are close in Arizona -- 47%/50% according to Morning Consult, 47%/51% according to Civiqs -- but in Michigan, Trump is really unpopular: 40%/55% according to Morning Consult, 44%/54% according to Civiqs.

So what is Peters thinking? Yes, he's facing a tough race against a well-regarded black Republican, John James, who came within 6 points of defeating Debbie Stabenow in the 2018 Senate race. James outraised Peters in the fourth quarter of 2019 -- but the Real Clear Politics poll average shows Peters up by 8.3.

I don't see how voting to acquit helps Peters in an anti-Trump state, unless he doesn't believe the polls. (In Michigan in 2016 they were mostly wrong, though they accurately predicted Democrat Gretchen Whitmer's win in the 2018 governor's race and Democrat Debbie Stabenow's Senate win.) Democrats also gained two House seats in 2018 and won the overall House vote by more than 7 points.

So I think Peters risks alienating his base if he votes to acquit. Sinema, too. I hope they're just hinting at open-mindedness to appeal to swing voters, all while planning to convict.

I've written off Manchin, who votes with Trump more than half the time. (I still want him in office, though, because his replacement would be a Republican who votes with Trump 100% of the time, or close to it.) So I expect at least one Democratic vote to acquit. I hope it's no more than that.


UPDATE: Told ya Murkowski would vote no.

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