This suggests that a certain type of Republican (one with a modicum of independence, a smidgen of patriotism and/or a healthy survival instinct) might reach the point of no return based on Mulvaney’s confession and Trump’s comment in his July 25 call (he needed “a favor though," he told the Ukrainian president). With a stream of mid-level career civil servants available to attest to the holdup in aid — despite Mulvaney’s attempt to walk back his confession later — there can be little doubt of a quid pro quo, otherwise known as an extortion attempt by President Trump to use government funds to attain personal political advantage.
How many Mitt Romneys and Lisa Murkowskis are out there? Well, let’s look at some polling. Morning Consult finds that “Republicans representing Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa all saw their net approval — the share of voters who approve of a senator’s job performance minus the share who disapprove — decline between the second and third quarters of 2019.” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who could not manage to tell us whether it is wrong for the president to enlist a foreign government to influence our elections, are down 9 points and 3 points, respectively.
Ernst is in particular trouble. “The slide places her underwater with Iowa voters (39 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove) for the first time and among the 10 most unpopular senators in the country,” the polls found. “Iowa voters of all partisan leanings soured on the first-term senator, but GOP voters were most likely to take a dimmer view of her job performance. Her net approval dropped by 13 points among Republicans, compared with respective 9- and 7-point drops among Democrats and independents.” Uh-oh.
Ernst is not alone. “Ernst is not the only Republican up for re-election next year with a home-state approval below 40 percent: Among the vulnerable incumbents, Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are all below that threshold following a quarter where each saw little movement.”
Meanwhile, vulnerable Democratic incumbents are rising in polls. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) are up 1 points and 3 points, respectively. If these sort of numbers persist, or get even worse for Republicans, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will lose his majority.
McConnell, infamous for his shameless, ice-water-in-his-veins brand of politics, will do whatever he must to save his members. If that means shoving Trump off-stage, he will gladly do it. (Notice his especially tough condemnation of Trump’s Syria debacle.)
A mound of evidence of plainly impeachable conduct. A GOP majority at risk. One could reasonably expect to see indications that a significant number of Republican senators would kick Trump to the curb to save their own necks and the GOP Senate majority. The game of chicken (“Resign, or we vote to remove you!”) might begin in earnest. Alternatively, Trump could decide that he has accomplished more in three years than any other president accomplished in eight (the best ever!). Why not retire early, grab a pardon from Mike Pence and spend all his time golfing? It is not as far-fetched as it used to be.