As an issue in a general-election campaign, Democrats might have made a good deal of hay in the Ukraine-Gate sunlight. As an impeachment effort, it makes for a good general-election fundraiser for Donald Trump. Voters responded to a full fourth quarter of Impeachapalooza with a full fourth quarter of record-breaking donations to Trump’s re-election campaign, blowing out the leader of the Democratic primary in the same stanza:
Amid escalating foreign policy crises and a looming Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump is entering 2020 with a sizable campaign war chest ahead of the presidential election.
The President’s reelection campaign raised $46 million in the final quarter of 2019, the campaign announced Thursday, noting in a statement that the haul represents “the best fundraising quarter for the campaign in the 2020 election cycle.”
In fact, the number comes just under half of what Team Trump raised for the other three quarters of 2019 combined — $97.8 million. That puts the campaign well over $140 million with months to go before Democrats settle on a single nominee to joust with Trump in a general election. Their cash-on-hand position hit nine figures, too:
The campaign has $102.7 million cash on hand, the most of any 2020 candidate.
Trump has a strong incumbent advantage in comparison to the wide 2020 Democratic field. Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more than $34.5 million this quarter, one of the largest quarterly totals of any Democratic candidate this election cycle. Pete Buttigieg raised more than $24.7 million in the last quarter, and businessman Andrew Yang raised $16.5 million.
Is this correlation with impeachment, or true causation? Some of this enthusiasm could be an organic result of watching the Democratic presidential field pull a hard left to get to the presidential nomination. The presidential debates keep stoking progressive passions, but are starting to also show some stepping back from hardline goals. Despite everyone initially paying some lip service to Medicare for All, Bernie Sanders is now the only candidate fully committed to it. The Green New Deal talk has gotten quieter, too, although Elizabeth Warren did start mentioning a “Blue New Deal” for the oceans without much elaboration.
Team Trump certainly believes this is causation rather than correlation:
The massive haul came as House Democrats’s impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump over his conduct with Ukraine entered its public phase and ultimately led to the historic, party-line vote last month to impeach the president. The House approved two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, against Mr. Trump.
But the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have said the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats has been a boon to his reelection efforts. The party brought in $20.6 million in November alone, making it the most successful November in its history, according to Fox News. Additionally, on the day the House approved two articles of impeachment against the president, the Trump campaign brought in more than $5 million, Parscale said.
Even assuming this is just correlation and not causation, it’s very bad news for Democrats. Their impeachment project was doomed to failure in terms of removing Trump in a GOP-majority Senate unless one of two things happened. Either public opinion would have to dramatically shift in favor of removal, or Trump’s political support among his base would have to collapse, preferably both. Trump’s donor figures suggest that his base is stronger than ever at precisely the same time Democrats are trying this strategy.
As for public opinion, well … this is what FiveThirtyEight has seen for removal over the Q4 fundraising cycle:
That’s as good a flat-line as you’ll see outside of an emergency room EKG. This has never been anything but a partisan effort borne out of the anger over losing the last election, and voters are entirely unmoved by it. Since House Democrats aren’t listening to them on impeachment, they’re beginning to vote with their wallets — in support of a measurably unpopular president that they nevertheless elected. The longer Democrats keep flogging this flatliner strategy, the more dynamic Trump’s fundraising will likely be.