Three-quarters of the public (75%) in a new Quinnipiac University poll
, to be exact. And while that numbers includes almost unanimous support for witnesses among Democrats (95%), it also shows a large majority of independents in favor of witnesses (75%) and even a near-majority of Republicans (49%).
Those numbers aren’t an outlier, either. A CNN poll
released earlier this month showed 69% support for witnesses — including, again, a plurality of Republicans (48%). A Monmouth University poll
showed 75% for witnesses.
In short: Public opinion is firm in favor of witnesses. And that support is across the political spectrum — an anomaly in our deeply polarized times. The reason is simple: Logic suggests that if witnesses have new or important information, most people think we should hear from them. Not allowing witnesses to bring forward that new information feels like a cover-up or at least makes people suspicious as to why anyone wouldn’t want to have the fullest picture possible before deciding on whether or not to remove a President.
(Of course, Republican support for witnesses could well be not for the likes of former national security adviser John Bolton but for people like, say, Hunter Biden. Pollsters don’t make clear which witnesses when asking whether people support witnesses.)
Which brings us to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s acknowledgment
Tuesday night that the votes are simply not there yet to block the calling of witnesses. Now, McConnell is the consummate vote-counter and behind-the-scenes persuader. And the vote on witnesses isn’t expected until Friday.
But as the numbers above make clear, McConnell just doesn’t have all that much to work with here. Politicians, especially those up for reelection in the near term, are deeply reactive creatures, almost preternaturally aware of public sentiment. While the Senate — because of the increasing alignment of presidential vote with Senate representation
— is somewhat insulated from the whims of the public, they are still politicians. And when 75% of the public say they want something, politicians tend to want to give it to them.
(Sidebar: The one notable exception to that rule is on gun control restrictions, where large majorities of the country support things like closing the gun show loophole or even reinstating the assault weapons ban. The Senate’s rural bloc — across the Plains and Midwest — allows for legislation, no matter how popular, to be blocked. Read this on that.
So if you are Sen. Susan Collins of Maine or Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado or Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, you can’t simply ignore the fact that lots and lots of people (including a near-majority of Republicans) want to hear from witnesses. There’s no doubt that a vote against witnesses then would become an issue in your 2020 campaign — and likely not one that works in your favor.
And/but, you also have to consider this: The President of the United States is going to be very, very pissed off if you break with him on the question of witnesses.
Trump, never one for subtlety, made that crystal clear in a tweet
on Wednesday morning:
“No matter how many witnesses you give the Democrats, no matter how much information is given, like the quickly produced Transcripts, it will NEVER be enough for them. They will always scream UNFAIR. The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!”
That idea — nothing will ever be enough for Democrats — was reportedly
an echo of what Gardner, the most endangered Republican incumbent on the ballot this fall, told his colleagues in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
It remains to be seen which argument will win out. Cross the President, or cross the public? But either way, Republicans like Gardner, Collins and McSally have a very tough few days ahead.