CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group

Former Obama chief strategist David AxelrodDavid AxelrodThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders, Buttigieg set for Granite State showdown The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders, Buttigieg do battle in New Hampshire Timeline: Trump and Romney's rocky relationship MORE said he attended a focus group with Democratic voters in Chicago on Friday, describing the gathering as "chilling" because impeachment "didn't come up" until more than an hour into the session despite it taking place amid the Senate trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE.

Axelrod, who serves as a political analyst on CNN, shared about his experience during an interview with network anchor Erin Burnett on "OutFront" on Friday night, as Democratic House impeachment managers made their final arguments in the trial before White House lawyers begin their defense of the president on Saturday.

"I was in a focus group this morning for the Institute for Politics here at the University of Chicago with some Chicago Democratic voters, and it was chilling to hear them talk about this," Axelrod said. "Because impeachment didn’t come up, no one volunteered it, for 80 minutes into the focus group, and we’re right in the middle of the trial."

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"When it came up, they said, you know, it's terrible what he did, the case has been proven, but we know how it's going to turn out," Axelrod continued. "So we're not really that interested, we're ready to move on."

"And I think that's what Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democrats block two Senate abortion bills VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing MORE and the president and the White House are banking on: That they can take the hit here, buffalo their way through this and the public will move on," he said. "It's a cynical calculation, but it may not be the wrong calculation."

The Senate would need 20 Republicans to vote with all Democrats to convict the president in order for him to be removed.

The Democratic strategist made the comments as House impeachment managers wrapped up their third day of opening arguments in the impeachment trial, seeking to make their case to senators and the American public that Trump should be removed from office over his dealings with Ukraine and handling of the impeachment probe.

The first day of the Senate proceedings, on Tuesday, was dedicated to debating the rules for the trial, with Democratic lawmakers and Trump's lawyers debating late into the night before Senate Republicans adopted a resolution that left out Democratic demands for additional witness testimony and documents at the outset of the trial.

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That day drew 11 million viewers across ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, fewer than the more than 13 million people who tuned in across the six broadcast and cable news networks for the first day of the House impeachment hearings on Nov. 13.

Viewership for the Senate trial continued to taper off by Wednesday, with 8.9 million people watching the proceedings across ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.

By comparison, nearly 20 million tuned in to watch former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Comey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Trump punts on Stone pardon decision after sentencing MORE testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017, while 16 million watched Trump's former attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenFree Roger Stone Trump calls the Russia investigation 'bulls---' CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE testify before the House Oversight Committee in 2018.

Most polls show almost an even split on whether the president should be removed from office.

In the RealClearPolitics index of polls, 47.2 percent say Trump should be removed from office, while 48.3 percent say he should not removed, a number that has shifted in favor of the president in recent weeks.

On Oct. 21, shortly after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter Oversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.) announced she planned to launch the impeachment inquiry, the RealClearPolitics average showed 49.5 percent saying Trump should be removed from office, while 44.8 percent opposed.