Missouri had only a few local elections last week, so it would be easy to overlook a partisan trend in other states that might influence Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office and the 2020 national election.
Of course, only a fool would make political predictions 12 months out. A lot will happen in the next few months to determine the 2020 presidential election, but Donald Trump cannot be a confident man.
Tuesday’s elections were a mix of small but consistent indications of voter dissatisfaction with Republicans — although nothing like the shellacking suffered by Democrats in 2010.
American elections seldom are tidal waves of change; they are usually hard-fought tug of wars that leave a mixed bag of results.
Even so, Trump cannot be a happy man. Even less happy is probably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose seat became hotter as the major decider of Trump’s future.
The most notable results were the Democratic gubernatorial wins in Kentucky and Kansas, and Democrats taking control of the Virginia House and Senate. That makes a total of 10 state legislative chambers that have flipped to the Democrats since Trump took office.
Among the smaller signals that Trump may have an uphill climb are these:
• A Democrat winning the St. Louis County seat in the Missouri House by 12 points in a district won by Trump by 5 points in 2016.
• Vice President Mike Pence’s hometown (Columbus, Indiana) electing a Democratic city council for the first time in 40 years.
• And a Democratic win in a Pennsylvania state Senate race and in Philadelphia suburb local elections.
Pennsylvania is one of the three states (the others are Michigan and Wisconsin) that Hillary Clinton “should have won” in 2016. Even in Mississippi, where Trump won by 17.6 points in 2016, the Republican gubernatorial candidate won by only 4 points last week.
Suburbs across America appear to be weakening in their support of Republicans.
It appears that the House of Representatives will impeach Trump before the end of 2019.
To be removed from office, 67 senators must vote for conviction. There are presently 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents (who caucus with the Democrats) in Congress.
Thus, 20 Republican senators are needed to remove Trump from office. That seems very unlikely unless Senate Majority Leader McConnell becomes concerned about (1) keeping his own Senate seat, Kentucky, and (2) staying in the majority.
McConnell is likely to face Democrat Amy McGrath, a former U.S Marine lieutenant general who will be a well-financed opponent. The success of the Democrat gubernatorial candidate last week is taken as a sign that Trump’s appeal has weaken in an otherwise Republican-controlled state.
In an era of voter suppression, having the governor of Kentucky a Democrat is not good news for McConnell.
McConnell’s bigger headache may be senators from his own party becoming concerned with their 2020 reelections. There are 12 Democratic seats and 23 Republican seats up for election in 2020.
At least three Republican senators (Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado and Thom Tillis in North Carolina) are widely considered to be jeopardy.
A year in advance, Trump looks vulnerable with his 40% approval (74% among Republicans, a new low) and a majority of voters now supporting his impeachment, but a Politico poll conducted Nov. 1-3 found that 58% of voters expect Trump to be reelected, including 85% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats.
If McConnell is persuaded that about five Republican senators are convinced they will be defeated next November, thereby depriving McConnell from staying the majority leader, he will take protective action.
The Senate leader has an old-fashioned bargaining chip to use to save his seat and his political skin — make a deal with Trump that the president will not seek reelection and the Senate will not vote to remove the president from office.
Trump would have to recognize that his reelection is unlikely, but by not seeking reelection, he could save face, his ego and his place in history.
McConnell would be taking steps to keep his Senate seat and the top Senate job as majority leader. Such a deal would spare the nation a Senate impeachment trial, more civic harmony and less partisanship.
The sooner McConnell and Trump make that agreement, the better for Republicans. It could probably be as late as next June, but that would result in the Republican National Convention choosing the nominee for president rather than Republican primary voters.
Here are my predictions one year in advance: 2020 will look a lot like 1980 when the challenger, Ronald Reagan, upset the incumbent President Jimmy Carter and six Democratic giants in the Senate were defeated.
What was forecast to be a close election turned into a Republican landslide, not because a majority of voters disliked Carter personally, but because they didn’t think he had the skills necessary to be an effective president.
Likewise, regardless whether they agree or disagree with Trump’s policies, voters will increasingly recognize that Trump actions and decisions are troubling.
If given a credible and likeable Democratic candidate, voters in 2020 will not return Trump to the White House.
Republican electoral losses could be minimized if they choose a new presidential nominee, but that is up to Senate leader Mitch McConnell.