Amid the hothouse atmosphere that has developed in Washington in recent days, some are seeing a strategy emerging from President Trump’s increasingly frequent and brazen broadsides against his opponents in the impeachment debate.
At this point, the strategy goes, Mr. Trump might as well urge House Democrats to bring on an impeachment case. That seems likely to happen anyway, so get your core supporters as agitated as possible in preparation. The impeachment case then would move to the Senate, controlled by fellow Republicans, where a loyal bloc of supporters would acquit the president.
Mr. Trump then could claim exoneration, his base would be more angry and energized than ever, and—added bonus—along the way, former Vice President Joe Biden would have been knocked out as the leading Democratic presidential contender, muddied by Mr. Trump’s frequent charges he engaged in shady activities in Ukraine. That means the president would run for re-election instead against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a weaker general-election foe.
The theory is plausible enough, and even supported by the president’s declaration Friday that Democrats are “all in line” to impeach him.
However, the theory hinges on one key element: a Republican firewall that remains solid in the Senate to protect the president.
That suggests the focus in the impeachment drama, heretofore on House Democrats, increasingly will shift to Senate Republicans. And in the first instance, that focus will be most intense on four particular Senate Republicans.
They are the four Senate Republicans up for re-election next year in swing states, where support for Mr. Trump isn’t as strong as it is in the deep-red states many of their colleagues represent. They are Sens.
- Martha McSally of Arizona;
- Cory Gardner of Colorado;
- Susan Collins of Maine; and
- Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Comments critical of the president from sometimes-renegade Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska are noteworthy, but these four will be far more important leading indicators of GOP sentiments.
These four face the toughest re-election races of any Republicans next year. The authoritative Cook Political Report rates the Arizona, Colorado and Maine races as tossups, and the North Carolina race as one that leans Republican.
They come from states where opinions of Mr. Trump are deeply divided. In fact, in each of the four states, Mr. Trump’s approval ratings are slightly underwater, meaning voters disapprove of him more than they approve of him, according to the rolling Morning Consult state-by-state poll. The picture is particularly difficult for Colorado’s Sen. Gardner; in his state, 41% of voters approve of Mr. Trump, while 56% disapprove.
Thus, when it comes to rendering judgment on the president, each of these four can be sure they will anger a significant chunk of their constituency no matter what they do. Their states have nearly an equal supply of fervent Trump supporters and Trump haters, with each group prepared to extract a painful price depending on how their senator behaves.
In fact, the four senators already began to feel the heat last week, when an organization named Need to Impeach began running ads in their states pressuring them to support impeachment. Need to Impeach, which is largely funded by billionaire and now Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, is putting $3.1 million into running ads on television and on the internet. “How can we have a president who doesn’t think the law applies to him?” the ads ask, as patriotic images run in the background. “We are patriots who have always protected democracy. Will our senator?”
Kevin Mack, the top political strategist for Need to Impeach, says the ads represent a significant shift in the group’s efforts. Before now, the organization has focused on pressuring House Democrats to support impeaching Mr. Trump. With that goal seemingly reached, Need to Impeach is now shifting fire to Senate Republicans.
Next up on the group’s target list, Mr. Mack says, is the biggest Senate Republican of all: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces his own re-election battle in Kentucky next year.
The climb to the kind of supermajority needed in the Senate to convict and oust Mr. Trump is a steep one; the Constitution requires 67 Senate votes to convict an impeached president, and that means 20 Republican senators would have to turn on Mr. Trump. That seems wildly implausible right now.
Mr. Mack acknowledges the difficulty, but also argues: “One thing we’ve learned on this is that as soon as you get a few people to move your way it opens the floodgates and lots of people come your way.”
The Senate test remains a ways off. But when time comes to really gauge Republican backing for the president, it’s easy to know which four Senators represent the canaries in the coal mine.
The tax law and a push by the Trump administration to increase military spending will reduce federal revenue and force the Treasury to borrow more money when the economy is close to full employment. This could stoke inflation and prompt the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy. That, in turn, would slow the economy.
.. The prospect of a recession or financial crisis on Mr. Trump’s watch is unnerving, because he is as confident in his own abilities as he is lacking in knowledge and sound judgment. When confronted with criticism, he lashes out like an intemperate child.
On Monday, he said Democrats who did not applaud during his State of the Union address were un-American and treasonous.
.. If the stock market falls further, will the president try to reassure the public, or will he launch a Twitter fusillade blaming the drop on, say, a conspiracy hatched by the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who wants Mr. Trump impeached?
.. Instead, he has stacked his administration with incompetent yes men, right-wing ideologues and Washington swamp dwellers. Consider the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a former investment banker, who unnerved the currency market last month by suggesting that the United States was trying to weaken the dollar. His statement broke with the longstanding practice followed by Treasury secretaries from both parties to avoid making careless public pronouncements about American currency.
Mr. Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, the White House’s chief economic adviser, also debased their credibility last year by arguing with no evidence whatsoever that the Republican tax cut would pay for itself.
.. Paul Ryan, tried to pass off as good economic news that a public school secretary would take home an extra $1.50 a week as a result of the tax law.
.. Mr. Ryan, for one, is citing the deficit to make the case that the government needs to slash Medicaid, Medicare and other important government programs. Other members of his party are using the deficits to argue that the government cannot afford to repair and upgrade the country’s dilapidated infrastructure.
Deep down, investors know that when patriots put country ahead of self, everyone benefits.
Less than a decade ago, after years of dramatic deregulation coupled with revenue-draining tax cuts, the entire U.S. financial system effectively collapsed. It took down with it millions of American consumers, workers, small businesses, retirees and middle-class homeowners.
The country can’t afford this kind of outcome again. That’s why I want to be as straight as possible: Despite what you may believe, the Republican tax plan taking shape is a sham. It will lead to more pain and less prosperity for the vast majority of Americans.
.. Stopping it will be good for investors’ bank accounts, because when Main Street and the rest of the nation does well, so does the financial sector. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work, but trickle-up does. Trying to re-enact Reaganomics under completely different circumstances may well lead the economy back into a recession—one that the country will be ill-equipped to weather after the GOP proposal adds $1 trillion to the national debt.
.. The plan’s massive tax cuts won’t reinvigorate the economy. For years corporations have enjoyed historically high profits, but investment hasn’t increased alongside them. Last month at a meeting of The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, an editor asked attendees whether they would boost investment if the tax bill passed. Few hands went up.
.. Sixty-two percent of the benefits from the Senate bill’s tax cuts flow to the top 1% of earners
.. Honest analyses indicate that the Republican proposal overwhelmingly helps the wealthy and is probably a net negative for almost everyone else. That’s largely because it will be paid for with money taken out of the pockets of working Americans and their children: The tax cuts will be used as an excuse to further gut investments in education, health care and training. Slashing these services for working Americans will stunt the country’s future prosperity and weaken the overall economy.
.. the American people will not be fooled by the noise. If they see a bill passed that hands out filet mignon to the wealthy while leaving them struggling over scraps, they will be furious. Once again, they’ll realize that the system serves the needs of those at the top and ignores working families. They’ll consider this more evidence of corruption. And it will be harder than ever to argue otherwise.
.. Passing this tax plan, which adds to workers’ pain, would put another knife into American democracy. It would be a true disaster.
.. When 1 in 3 Americans say they are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, is it
- worth saving the Trump family $1 billion by repealing the estate tax?
- Worth increasing insurance premiums for middle-class families in the individual market by $2,000, as the Center for American Progress estimates the Senate bill would?
- Worth taxing tuition waivers, making it prohibitively expensive for young people to get advanced degrees and thus sacrificing America’s economic competitiveness down the road?
- Worth cutting Medicare by $25 billion?
- Worth ending tax credits for clean energy, sabotaging one of the most promising industries for the 21st century, while protecting much larger tax breaks for oil and gas?
.. Fellow investors include Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, LinkedIn Corp. Chairman Reid Hoffman, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Chairman Jack Ma, and retired hedge fund manager John Arnold.