There appeared to be a noticeable shift in the U.S. political landscape this week.
President Donald Trump finally emerged triumphant from the battle over impeachment with rising poll ratings and a Democratic Party in disarray over a major election failure in Iowa.
In the span of just a few days, Trump’s reelection prospects appeared more favorable than at any time during his presidency.
Trump celebrated his acquittal in the Senate trial with a rambling celebration Thursday at the White House in front of family, administration aides and Republican members of Congress.
The president denounced the impeachment process begun by Democrats in the House of Representatives as “evil and corrupt.”
“They brought me to the final stages of impeachment,” Trump said. “But now we have that gorgeous word. I never thought a word would sound so good. It is called total acquittal. Total acquittal!” he declared to cheers and applause at the White House ceremony.
Trump was acquitted on two articles of impeachment Wednesday in the Senate, one for abuse of power and the other for obstruction of Congress. All but one Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to acquit the president, and that was only on one of the articles. All 47 Democrats voted to convict on both articles.
Trump is the third U.S. president impeached by the House, and like the other two, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999, he was acquitted after a Senate trial.
Even though it was expected, Trump’s acquittal was a setback for Democrats, including their Senate leader, Chuck Schumer.
“You cannot be on the side of this president and be on the side of truth. And if we are to survive as a nation, we must choose truth,” Schumer said.
Earlier in the week, the president also used his State of the Union address to rally supporters with an eye toward his campaign for reelection in November.
“America’s enemies are on the run. America’s fortunes are on the rise. And America’s future is blazing bright. The years of economic decay are over,” Trump announced in the House chamber Tuesday to enthusiastic cheers from Republicans who rose to their feet.
In the short term, many political analysts believe Trump’s acquittal could be a political boost.
“I think it will help motivate Trump’s base, no question,” said American University presidential historian Allan Lichtman. “They will buy into his argument that this was a partisan witch hunt designed to bring down their president.”
Just as the impeachment battle reached its final act, Trump’s approval rating in the Gallup poll rose to a new high of 49%, with 50% disapproving and 1% with no opinion.
Trump’s ratings in other surveys have bumped up slightly in recent weeks, even as the Senate trial moved toward its conclusion in the Senate. For much of his presidency, Trump’s approval ratings on average have been mired in the low 40s.
The primary force behind the poll bump is likely the strong U.S. economy. Gallup found 63% approve of Trump’s handling of the economy. Historically, presidents running for reelection with a strong economy win.
The survey also found 94% of Republicans are with the president, and his approval rating with independent voters is up to 42%, higher than it has been in some time.
As the 2020 presidential campaign kicks into high gear, Trump should reap political benefits from the strong economy, said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
“It points to a close race at this point. The president will still have to get his [approval] numbers up a bit to be competitive. But he is not so far from that, and he does have some other strengths.”
Democrats in disarray
Trump remains a target on the presidential campaign trail, where several Democratic contenders are trying to raise their profile in the wake of a murky result out of the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders appeared to be the winners in Iowa. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren trailed in third place, and former Vice President Joe Biden was grappling with a disappointing fourth-place finish.
Democratic Party Leader Calls for Iowa Caucus Vote RecountCall comes after technical problems ruined plans to produce accurate and timely vote counts in state-by-state selection process of Democratic presidential candidate
Biden is trying to restart his campaign in New Hampshire ahead of next Tuesday’s presidential primary, and is keeping his focus on the president.
“We know who Donald Trump is. We have to let him know who we are. We choose hope over fear. We choose science over fiction,” Biden told supporters at a rally in Nashua.
While the outcome of the impeachment trial is a setback for Democrats in the near term, Lichtman said it will likely boost voter turnout in November.
“So, I think Democrats, if anything, are going to be angry, fired up and ready to say, ‘All right, you said the remedy was the election. We are going to apply that remedy and get rid of Donald Trump.’ ”
After months of political wrangling over impeachment, much of the country may be ready to move on, but the political polarization on display at the State of the Union address and in the wake of the impeachment battle remains.
“I think what we learned from this is that we have a divided nation, we have a divisive president, we have a splintered media, and people are going to look at it through those lenses,” said Jim Kessler, with the center-left advocacy organization Third Way.
Trump is eager to claim victory after his acquittal in the impeachment trial and believes it will motivate his political base.
But he faces another judgment from voters in November and some Republicans are already urging caution.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Karl Rove, a political adviser to former President George W. Bush, said at the moment the president appears to be on a “roll.”
But Rove also had this warning for Trump supporters: “What happens the first week of February won’t decide what happens the first Tuesday of November.”