Kellyanne Conway: Dirty little secret -- Democrats don't have the votes to impeach

This clip is from early this morning, hours before House Dems voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry, so there was confusion initially about which vote she meant. One WaPo columnist thought Conway meant that Pelosi didn’t have the votes for the inquiry, i.e. that today’s vote would fail and that the impeachment effort would suddenly collapse in a heap on the House floor.

Which would be nuts. Conway can’t possibly have believed Pelosi would let herself be taken by surprise that way, or that viewers might be so gullible as to believe it. I realize that the Fox audience must be carefully sheltered from bad news for the president to the maximum extent possible but that bad news was destined to come this morning no matter what. No sense in Conway giving them false hope.

I think what she means is that the final impeachment vote to come next month or in December is the one where Pelosi doesn’t have 218. That’s not as nutty but still pretty nutty: Centrist Dems would have more to fear from their base at this point if they short-circuited impeachment after all the testimony about a quid pro quo than they would from swing voters if they followed through on it. Having taken the fateful step today of voting to formalize the impeachment inquiry, there’s simply no doubt that they’ll vote to impeach in the end.

But from Conway’s perspective, it can’t hurt to pre-spin that outcome, right? The polling on opening the impeachment inquiry is fairly solidly in Democrats’ favor (51/42 on average per FiveThirtyEight) but the polling on whether to go ahead and actually impeach Trump is much tighter at 47.5/43.6. And that’s nationally, not in the battleground states that Conway mentions in the clip. The NYT polled six swing states earlier this month and, as of mid-October, found voters opposed to impeachment and removal, 43/53. More from the Hill:

“We’ve known for a long time that everybody in California and New York want Trump to be impeached, they’ve wanted that since the day he came into office,” said one Trump campaign official who is not authorized to speak on the record. “But in these states where the election is really going to be fought, we’re seeing that voters oppose impeachment, and there’s an intensity to that opposition.”

“It’s not a good thing that bare majorities oppose removing Trump from office in these key states,” said one GOP pollster who requested anonymity. “Removing the president from office should be a really big deal, almost unthinkable, and reserved for the biggest scandals or wrongdoing. So only eking out 51 percent or 52 percent opposition in these states isn’t good.”

“That said, these numbers definitely show that there’s lots of room for Democrats to handle this badly and hand Trump a second term,” the pollster continued.

Conway’s trying to raise public awareness that impeachment isn’t popular in battlegrounds by speculating (incorrectly) that Dems from those states might get cold feet. Ironically, though, I think the fact that the outcome in the Senate is assured makes it easier for House Democrats from swing states to support impeachment. No harm, no foul: If they impeach and Trump is acquitted, then the president retains his office and the country will move on to the next thing. Trump fans will be mad, of course, but Trump fans weren’t voting for House Democrats next fall anyway. And meanwhile progressives who’ve been carping all year that the House must impeach Trump will have finally gotten their cookie. Pelosi did what they wanted. Now they can take their wrath at Congress for failing to remove the president and use it against Senate Republicans.

Although today is nominally a “loss” for Trump in that House Dems ratified the ongoing impeachment inquiry I think this Atlantic piece is spot on in claiming that he lost the battle but will now obviously win the war. He got unanimous opposition from House Republicans to the resolution, after all, and if ever there was a step in the impeachment process where there was some doubt about GOP unanimity, today was it. Everyone expects them to vote unanimously against actual impeachment later on but centrist Republicans could have treated today as an opportunity to signal to centrists back home that they’re concerned about the allegations of a quid pro quo, they’re taking the charges seriously, and they agree that the matter should at least be *investigated*. Having banked a little cred that they’re “keeping an open mind” by voting in favor of opening the inquiry, they could then turn around next month and vote against impeachment, claiming that they’ve studied the evidence carefully and there’s just no “there” there. That is, there was at least some chance of a few Republican defections today. The fact that there were none means that this process could go party-line the entire way, even in the Senate. The House GOP’s solidarity shows that Trump will tolerate no disloyalty, even on a meaningless vote for sound strategic reasons.