McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time

Donald Trump had a pretty good run in Washington — rampaging through the Republican Party, driving the media to distraction, enraging the Democrats and treating his own co-partisans in the Senate like a bunch of valets. But that’s all about to end. And I predict it will end with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — as the new minority leader — incinerating Trump’s political future for good.

McConnell needs just 18 votes to finish off Trump. Conviction on impeachment can bring with it a ban on holding federal office — which includes the presidency. A two-thirds majority or 67 votes is necessary for conviction. For McConnell that means 18 votes if West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin opposes or 17 if Manchin joins in. (Preferably, McConnell would want to get to 68 votes so that no Republican could be accused of being the one vote that convicted Trump).

Why should McConnell and the Republican senators convict?

For Republicans, allowing Trump to continue to be eligible to run for president is a recipe for disaster. Trump simply cannot win in a general election. The combination of events at the Capitol and his ejection from the major social media platforms is fatal.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t get the GOP nomination in 2024.

The way the Republican primary system is structured helps a candidate like Trump who has a dedicated base — even if it is the minority of the party. GOP primaries and caucuses award a disproportionate share of delegates to the top vote-getter and in some states the winner takes all. In 2020, Trump failed to get even one-third of the vote in South Carolina, but that was enough to lead the field and collect all 50 delegates.

In fact, Trump failed to get a majority of the Republican vote in any state primary or caucus until his home state of New York voted in April 19 (Ted Cruz had four majority results). Trump won 10 states with less than 40 percent of the vote and two with less than 35 percent. In total, Trump failed to crack 40 percent in 22 states and caucuses and only won majorities in 16 states, with nine of those majorities after everyone else dropped out. If no-hopers like Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina had dropped out early, either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio were in a strong position to beat Trump.

If Trump holds on to just 35 percent of the Republican electorate and a crowded field chops up the anti-Trump vote, Trump might get the nomination — at the very least he draws out the nominating process and hurts the eventual nominee’s chances. A recent Morning Consult poll has Trump with support of 40 percent of Republicans for 2024; it’s worth keeping in mind a couple of points: 1) this is mostly a name recognition number and 2) given that Trump got 94 percent of the Republican vote, a 54-point collapse is pretty terrible — but that 40 percent looks like his hardcore base.

Importantly, Republicans need to remember that were the roles reversed, Trump would vote to convict without hesitation. If Trump had the chance to kill off an opponent, he would not pause for a second to consider the principle or the morality of the matter. He would act in his own interest, 100 percent of the time.

Trump is always at war, and a large segment of the GOP does not appreciate this. You don’t play by the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules in war. Being a principled gentleman when faced with a feral brute ready to shank you in the back doesn’t make you brave or heroic — it makes you a fool.

Can McConnell get the votes?

Surprisingly, getting the votes might not be that difficult. Because Trump simply rages uncontrollably — without thought or foresight — at the slightest criticism or disagreement, he has managed to alienate plenty of Republican senators, most of whom have been winning elections in their home states long before Trump barged onto the scene — and often with much greater margins. Add to that the staggered terms in the Senate, as opposed to the House, and that several senators may be in their last term with nothing to lose, and you have a toxic stew of animus about to be served up to Trump.

Remove all the Republicans who are up for reelection in 2022 and all those who voted to challenge the Electoral College votes of either Arizona or Pennsylvania and you have 24 potential conviction votes.

Assuming Manchin votes no, we start at 49 votes to convict.

Start with the senators who are retiring or likely in their last term: McConnell, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), which brings the conviction total to 53 votes. This group has nothing to lose and has served in the Senate for several terms. Toomey has already signaled his dismay with Trump.

Then there’s the enemies list: John Thune (R-S.D.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), which raises the conviction vote to 58. Trump has threatened these senators, often repeatedly. They also have little to lose and have already staked out ground against Trump. Thune and Murkowski are up in 2022, but probably don’t care at this point.

Consider the friends of Thune: John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) — senators from the Dakotas and Wyoming — all have common interests and have won with big margins in small states where people have personal relationships with them. Trump is not much of a threat. They would bring the conviction vote to 62.

Then there’s “Friends of Pence”: primarily James Inhofe (R-Okla.), raising the vote to 63. This list could be — and probably is — much larger. The way Trump dumped Mike Pence and left him to run from the mob infuriated Pence’s allies. Inhofe went public with his disgust.

That total — 63 — leaves McConnell a few votes short, but also with a lot of opportunities.

Senators not in their first term who are not up for reelection until 2026 include Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Two others aren’t up until 2024. That’s a pretty deep pool from which to fish four more votes. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) might vote to convict out of principle — even though he faces voters in 2022.

Trump has only himself to blame. Yet again he is in a mess of his own making.

Trump has voluntarily taken a seat in the electric chair. The question is whether Senate Republicans have the nerve to throw the switch.

Keith Naughton, Ph.D. is co-founder of Silent Majority Strategies, a public and regulatory affairs consulting firm. Dr. Naughton is a former Pennsylvania political campaign consultant. Follow him on Twitter @KNaughton711.

Tags 2021 impeachment 2024 presidential race Ben Sasse Bill Cassidy Capitol breach Capitol riots fallout Chuck Grassley Dan Sullivan Donald Trump Impeachment trial of Donald Trump James Inhofe Joe Manchin John Barrasso John Cornyn John Hoeven John Thune Joni Ernst Kevin Cramer Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Mike Pence Mike Rounds Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Pat Toomey Rand Paul Richard Shelby Senate Republicans Shelley Moore Capito Steve Daines Susan Collins Ted Cruz Thom Tillis Tom Cotton

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