The national Democrats want impeachment talks. They really want it. This is not because they’ve lost faith in Barack Obama and figure President Joe Biden would be better. They saw how impeachment increased Bill Clinton’s popularity and brought them gains in the 1998 midterm elections.
Nate Silver recently examined this trend and found that MSNBC and the Democrats talk about impeachment much more than Fox News and the Republicans. Who’s the most prominent Republican talking impeachment? Sarah Palin? Maybe that’ll help get more subscribers to her new channel, but if Palin is the flag-bearer for a movement, it’s going to fail.
Back to the Clinton lesson. In 1997, Clinton had an approval rating in the 50s. It even touched 60% around the time the Monica Lewinsky scandal started. House Republicans plowed ahead with impeachment hearings and wound up losing seats in 1998. It’s very rare for the opposition party to lose seats in Congress during a president’s second term, but Speaker Newt Gingrich found a way to do it.
Fast-forward to 2014. Obama’s approval rating is 41%. Polls currently show that Republicans are on course to take back the majority in the Senate and increase their majority in the House. Even though hardly anything is getting done in Washington, and even though Congress is deeply unpopular, the GOP knows that they could play prevent defense until November and win. Americans don’t like Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi any more than Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
What would help move the needle? Impeachment talks.
The Republican Party won’t fall for it.