Do I hear four? Anyone?
Let’s start with who won’t be voting for acquittal. Breitbart wonders about Gary Peters of Michigan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, both of whom come from battleground states. But that’s why they’re nonstarters: They’re both on the ballot next fall, when impeachment will still be kinda sorta fresh in voters’ minds, and they’re both facing coin-flip elections. Any incumbent in that position will necessarily have to put their base first, knowing that it’s much easier to alienate a voter who’s in your corner than it is to persuade a voter who’s reluctant to vote for you. Vote no on removal and you’ll pick up a smattering of right-leaning swing voters while infuriating progressives whom you’re counting on to canvass for you and bankroll your campaign.
Without exception, everyone who’s on the ballot next fall in a purple state will vote with their party. Peters and Shaheen are as certain to vote for removal as Susan Collins and Cory Gardner are to oppose it.
But there are a few Dems who aren’t on the ballot next year and/or aren’t from battlegrounds who might be in play. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana has his eye on three — Joe Manchin, Doug Jones, and Kyrsten Sinema.
I think that all three of them, with the emphasis on the first two you mentioned–Alabama was one of the most conservative states in the country, West Virginia, Trump carried the state by 42 points.
Kyrsten Sinema has shown some independence in terms of not going in lockstep with Chuck Schumer on everything, so I think there’s a good chance one, two, or maybe three of them, can’t see any beyond that, and on the other hand, I think with what we see over the last couple weeks, there’s been more solidarity within the Republican conference to where some senators that were discussed as maybe wavering probably see it in the same lense that most of us do, as inappropriate maybe on some of this stuff, impeachable no, nothing new has come to the forefront, really since all the tidbits were leaked out since it was behind closed doors.
What are the odds of all three flipping? Slim, I think. Let’s go in order.
Manchin will flip for the simple reason that he’s from one of the Trumpiest states in the country and runs virtually no risk of a backlash from lefties. Democrats know the score in West Virginia: Manchin may be the only Democrat in the entire state capable of winning and holding a Senate seat. However much it may infuriate them to watch him cross the aisle on this, they’re expecting a payoff in the next decade when there’s a new Democratic president with a 50/50 Senate and Joe Manchin is the only reason they’re able to confirm any judges or to pass the public option (after the filibuster is gone, of course). He has to stick with Trump on big litmus-test votes like Kavanaugh and impeachment to stay in the good graces of voters back home. Besides, it’s not like he’ll be the deciding vote on whether Trump is removed or not. Dems lose nothing by letting him pander on this.
Jones is a toss-up. He’s also from a blood-red state and is on the ballot next fall, which makes acquittal an obvious choice for him. Except that … confirming Kavanaugh was also the obvious choice for him for the same reason and yet Jones voted no on that one. *If* he wants any chance at a full term, he has to vote with Trump at the trial. But I’m not so sure he does. I think Jones may have accepted the hard reality that he’s not going to get a rematch with Roy Moore and therefore he’s a sure loser next year no matter how he votes, in which case he might as well vote his conscience. He probably opposed Kavanaugh for that reason, because he thought about his legacy as a Democrat and knew that no amount of pandering to Republicans was apt to save him in 2020. After all, he doesn’t have the long political history in his home state that Manchin has in West Virginia, where he’s a household name. My guess is Jones will accept his fate next fall and vote to remove.
Speaking of which:
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) December 10, 2019
Moore is down at seven percent. Unless Jones thinks he can convince Trump campaign for him against Sessions next year in exchange for a meaningless vote to acquit the president next month, he’s not beating any of the top three in that internal poll. And there’s no way he’s going to convince Trump to campaign for him, needless to say. McConnell would have an aneurysm.
The reaaaaally interesting one is Sinema since, unlike Manchin and Jones, her home state of Arizona is purple. It’s a true battleground — she won narrowly last year, remember — and is apt to get purpler before she’s up for reelection in 2024. My gut says she’ll surprise the chatterati by voting to remove Trump even though she’s on everyone’s list of potential crossovers. One reason is that the left has already complained loudly and long about Sinema positioning herself in the Senate as a Republican-friendly centrist independent. They know she has to thread a needle but she is, after all, a Democrat and progressives seem to think she’s been too quick to forget it. They’re watching her closely on impeachment, ready to see if she’ll commit the ultimate partisan betrayal.
Sinema’s different from Manchin and Jones in another way. She’s young, just starting out on what could be a long Senate career. Manchin’s 72 and was elected to two full terms as governor and as senator. Jones is 65, had a distinguished career as a U.S. Attorney, and won a shocking victory in a state that was supposed to be unwinnable by Democrats, denying Roy Moore a Senate seat. From the beginning, he had no real prospect of reelection. Sinema is … 43, has already served three terms in the House, and pulled off the single most impressive victory of the 2018 midterms by winning Arizona’s Senate race. She’s a potential Democratic presidential nominee down the road, particularly if the party’s drift towards the left goes bust at the polls and they decide that they need someone with centrist cred. Voting against removal would enrage so many progressives that I think they’d bear her a grudge for years, possibly in a 2024 Senate primary but certainly in some future presidential primary. It’d be the ultimate proof to them that she’s not “one of us.”
I think she needs to play the long game. Vote to remove and get the left off her back by proving that she’s still on the team, then spend the next four years making it up to Republicans in Arizona by doing deals with their party. Meanwhile, Arizona will be trending bluer by the time she has to face voters again, reducing the threat from Republicans who might still want to punish her for her by-then years-old vote to remove Trump. Heck, if Trump loses next fall and Republicans are no longer invested in him circa 2024, few Republican voters might even still care that Sinema once supported removing him. Lefties will care if she goes the other way, though: Every politician has to worry about litmus tests and long memories from their own base, and the removal vote is once-in-a-lifetime litmus-test material. She has to pass it. I think she sticks with Schumer.
But don’t worry. Trump will probably be impeached again if he wins a second term. Maybe she’ll vote with him next time!