Donald Trump had never run for a political office before becoming President. Given the rush of Trump scandals in the two weeks since Trump fired FBI director James Comey, Congressional Republicans probably wish that Vice President Mike Pence was the current President. Pence was a member of the US House from 2001 to 2013, and the Indiana Governor from 2013 until becoming Vice President.
According to Wikipedia, Pence has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order”, and positioned himself as a principled ideologue. If Pence were to become President, it is likely that he would be at least as right wing as Trump, but not as prone to scandal.
Such an agenda would suit Congressional Republicans, who did their utmost to obstruct Obama during his Presidency, and are trying to tear up his legacy. Congress has passed legislation repealing some of Obama’s regulations, and the House recently voted to repeal Obamacare, though that repeal is yet to be debated in the Senate.
The problem for Republicans with impeaching Trump is the “Trump cultists”. These people view Trump as an anti-establishment hero, and have closed their minds to any criticism of him. Like Trump himself, when he is criticised, his cultists viciously attack the accuser.
In January 2016, Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” This statement is not true for the overall electorate, but it is indicative of the loyalty of Trump cultists.
While the 2016 Republican primaries remained competitive, Trump was winning about 35% of the vote against a divided field. That 35% probably represents the Trump cultists as a percentage of the Republican electorate, not the general electorate. In the general election, the vast majority of Republicans voted for Trump because they either liked his policies or detested Obama, Clinton and the Democrats.
Any move by Congressional Republicans to impeach Trump would be seen as an act of treason by the Trump cultists. Such a move could cause a massive split in the Republican party.
To impeach the President, a majority of the House and a 2/3 majority of the Senate is required. Republicans won the House by 241-194 and the Senate by 52-48 at the 2016 election. Trump could only be impeached prior to the November 2018 midterm elections if Republican Congressional leaders abandoned him.
If Republican leaders conclude that the opprobrium from the overall electorate is a greater problem than losing the Trump cultists, they may decide to impeach Trump. But, despite the scandals in the last two weeks, that is still a long way from happening.
Trump’s ratings and upcoming US House by-elections
According to FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregate, 38.8% approve of Trump’s performance and 55.0% disapprove, for a net approval of -16.2, a record low. Trump’s disapproval is at a record high, and he has lost six points of net approval over the last few weeks. Among Republicans, Pollster has Trump at 81% approve, 15% disapprove; he was at 84-13 approve with Republicans at the end of April.
Trump’s ratings have held up well with Republicans, as most of them despise the mainstream media, and particularly the liberal Washington Post and New York Times, which have broken the stories about the Trump scandals. In this May Quinnipiac University poll, 57% of Americans trusted the media and 31% Trump, but among Republicans 72% trusted Trump and 17% the media.
On Thursday, a by-election will be held in Montana’s at-large Congressional District (CD), with results coming in on Friday afternoon Melbourne time. Montana has only one CD, so it is called “at-large”, rather than being given a number. Montana voted for Trump by a 56-37 margin over Clinton in 2016. Polling is mixed, with some having the Democrat ahead and others behind.
On 20 June, a runoff by-election will be held in Georgia’s sixth CD, which voted for Trump by 48.3-46.8. The Democrat, Jon Ossoff, won 48.1% in the April first round, but missed an absolute majority. He now faces a single Republican, Karen Handel. In the first round, Republicans overall won 51% and Democrats 49%. Also on 20 June, a by-election will be held in South Carolina’s fifth CD, which voted for Trump by 57-39.
Essential at 54-46 to Australian Labor
A fortnight after the budget, voting intentions in Essential are little changed, with Labor ahead by 54-46. Primary votes are 37% Coalition, 37% Labor, 10% Greens, 6% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of 1800, but additional questions use only one week’s sample.
Labor was down a little since March on both positive and negative attributes, while the Liberals were relatively steady. Labor led the Coalition on being the most trusted to fund Medicare 44-26, the National Disability Insurance Scheme 36-28, universities 41-25, the age pension 45-22 and public schools 45-25. The Coalition led on private schools 44-20.
By 55-21, voters approved of restricting the 0.5% Medicare levy increase to taxpayers earning at least $87,000 per year. By 41-23, they opposed a cut in the company tax rate. By 39-24, voters disapproved of ending the 2% deficit levy on incomes above $180,000.
78% thought the banks would pass on the costs of the bank levy via increased charges for their customers, and only 7% thought they would not.
Queensland ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor
A Queensland ReachTEL poll, presumably conducted last Thursday night from a sample of over 1000, has Labor leading by 51-49, a four point gain for Labor since a February ReachTEL. With the 0.6% undecided removed, primary votes are 35.3% Labor, 33.8% Liberal Nationals, 18.5% One Nation and 7.9% Greens. The next Queensland election must be held by early 2018.
Authors: Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne