This past Wednesday, US President Donald Trump was finally acquitted by the Senate bringing his impeachment trial to a dramatic end. Specifically, Trump was acquitted on charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. He was the third president in US history to reach that stage of impeachment.
With Congress dominated by Republicans, Trump’s acquittal did not come as a surprise to many. Only Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney broke ranks with the Republican fold to join Democrats in voting for a conviction against Trump.
Trump Can Now Focus On Winning
The acquittal means Trump can now focus on delivering his promises and winning the upcoming election. Even though he had fairly sure hope of being acquitted, there’s no doubt that the impeachment process was weighing down on Trump. The relief that came with it was evident from his rambling speech that he made at the White House following the Senate’s decision.
In a triumphalist and mocking manner, Trump held up a copy of the Washington Post with the headline, “Trump acquitted” before saying , “I went through hell, unfairly, I did nothing wrong.” As some in the media described it, it was not a news conference, but a celebration.
‘This Should Never Happen To Another President’
“It was corrupt, it was dirty cops and this should never happen to another president, ever. It’s a disgrace. If this had happened to President Obama a lot of people would have been in jail for many years,” Trump said amid wild applause from Republican Senators and numerous senior government officials.
What Does Trump’s Acquittal Mean For His 2020 Campaign?
With the impeachment chapter now closed, many are questioning the impact the acquittal, and the entire impeachment process will have on the 2020 elections which are just 10 months away. One undeniable fact is that Trump is approaching the elections in a strengthened position compared to his opponents.
The most conspicuous outcome of the acquittal is that at a time when the Democrats are approaching the elections in a divided manner Trump has managed to unite almost all of the Republican party behind him.
In terms of the electorate, Trump’s popularity among the party supporters is also soaring according to the latest polls. His approval rating, which has always been below 45%, rose to a new high of 49 percent according to a recent poll conducted by Gallup just before the Senate trial came to an end. The poll also showed that 51% of the public favor the Republican Party marking the first time since 2005 that the party has polled over 50%.
Apart from being a political victory for Trump, one political commentator said the acquittal . also enhanced the Presidency “after the senate effectively endorsed Trump’s use of institutional power for personal political ends and his blanket policy of ignoring a congressional investigation.
Trump’s Troubles Aren’t Completely Over
However despite Trump’s strengthened political position coming out of the acquittal, the issues that dominated the impeachment proceedings will still remain alive. They include Ukraine and soliciting for foreign assistance in the upcoming elections which all boils down to dishonesty.
They will definitely influence how a cross section of voters cast their ballots. As Gallup stated, “Impeachment and a strong state of the nation may have brightened Trump’s election prospects, but US-registered voters are evenly divided at 50% as to whether he deserves a second election.”
This means that while Trump’s support among Republicans has been bolstered, he still can’t be sure about his re-election.
The Democrats Have An Opportunity—Will They Take It?
This presents the Democrats with an opportunity to attract undecided voters. One way of doing this will be by portraying Trump’s acquittal as a dent on America’s democracy rather than a victory. This will definitely be the case judging by the remarks of key Democrats in the aftermath of the acquittal.
“I cant imagine being President of the United States and having all one party plus someone from your own party vote to say you should be thrown put of office and view that as a victory,” said Democratic presidential candidate and former VP Joe Biden.
Whether the strategy will have any impact in the campaigns will depend to some extent on factors influencing Trump’s good ratings. According to Gallup it is yet to be confirmed on whether Trump’s bigger approval rating was connected to the impeachment or the state of economy.
Is Trump Just Getting A Temporary Bounce Or Is He Surging?
Based on previous polls, if Trump’s approval ratings are due to impeachment then they are likely to drop back to their previous levels. For instance Bill Clinton’s approval rating and Democratic Party advantage dropped to their previous level within two months of his acquittal.
However, if the approval rating was due to Americans expressing their satisfaction with the state of economy under Trump, then the Democrats have reason to fear. This is because Trump’s popularity would be likely to increase in the course of the coming months, as was the case in 1984 under Donald Reagan, 1996 under Clinton and 2012 under Obama.