Finley: Impeachment won’t impact 2020 vote

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump is taking a "Go ahead, make my day," stance on his impeachment by the House. He thinks the Democratic-orchestrated spectacle will fire up his base and send Republicans surging to the polls in November.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, in Washington.

Tori Sachs, who heads Michigan Rising, a conservative activist group, says the impeachment has chased away any apathy that may have crept into the GOP base.

"They’re fired up," Sachs says. "We haven’t seen this kind of engagement from the base in awhile. It's exciting.” 

As evidence, Sachs points to the large turnouts at Trump rallies, including the one Wednesday in Battle Creek.

"Impeachment has already backfired on the Democrats," she says. 

But Richard Czuba of the Glengariff Group, pollster for The Detroit News, says the enthusiasm Sachs is seeing among her GOP base is mirrored by the passion of the Democratic base.

"Both parties' voters are already wildly motivated," says Czuba, adding that impeachment is not likely to move turnout one way or the other.

"I don’t think impeachment will have any influence on anybody," he says. "We don’t see how motivation to vote could go any higher. What we’re seeing is historic motivation for voting in an election that is a year away."

Deborah Barr of Ortonville shows her support of President Donald Trump at a rally against Impeachment on Dec. 14, 2019 in Bloomfield Hills.

The month-long impeachment hearings in the House had little impact on the way Michigan voters view Trump, Czuba says.

"People aren't moving," he says. "In the end, this doesn't change anyone's mind. They've staked out their positions. The intransigence of Congress reflects the mood of the nation."

Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet is an astute observer of the county’s famed Reagan Democrats, and isn’t worried about the base. His concern is with the fringes of Trump supporters and how they might be impacted by the relentless attacks on the president.

“Democrats just need to convince 5% of Trump voters in Michigan not to vote for him and they’ve accomplished their goal, given how narrow the margin of victory was in 2016,” Drolet says.

As always, the outcome of Michigan, a key state to Trump's reelection hopes, will depend on whether Democrats show up on Election Day. They didn't for Hillary Clinton in 2016, allowing Trump to take Michigan even though he underperformed with Republicans compared to some past GOP candidates who lost the state.

While Czuba says Democrats are fired up now — 9.8 motivation to vote on a scale of 10, compared to 9.6 for Republicans — the worry for that party is that their voters tend to get pouty if their preferred candidate loses.

That happened with Bernie Sanders voters in 2016, when Democratic voter enthusiasm in Michigan collapsed after Clinton won the nomination. Republicans, on the other hand, tend to stay with the party regardless of the nominee.

"Republicans don’t have to be excited to vote," Czuba says. "Republicans are going to vote."

The upcoming election will be all about Donald Trump, as everything has been for the past three years. The impeachment has changed nothing, and it's not likely to. 

"Republicans see one type of behavior in Donald Trump and Democrats see another," Czuba says. "It's two very different images of the same man.”

Catch Nolan Finley on “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on Detroit Public Television.