Trump's impeachment means more for history than it does for today, and he still has a big shot at winning re-election

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S., December 18, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis?


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan

  • President Donald Trump became the third president in US history to be impeached on Wednesday night.
  • Impeachment will always be a black mark on Trump's legacy, as it's a rare and serious political rebuke in the realm of US politics.
  • But Trump has still managed to unify both GOP lawmakers and voters, and his impeachment is unlikely to present an obstacle to his reelection in 2020.
  • Republicans in the Senate have made it clear they plan to acquit Trump in an impending impeachment trial.
  • Trump is the third president in the nation's history to be impeached, but he could be the first president to serve a second term after such a profound political denunciation.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When it comes down to it, President Donald Trump's impeachment means far more to history than it does to the present state of politics in the US.

Years from now, children will be taught in school that Trump was the third commander-in-chief in US history to have his legacy tarnished by impeachment. Their history books will show that he was impeached with more votes against him than either of the previous presidents who were hit with the most potent political rebuke in the House of Representatives' arsenal.
But it's virtually guaranteed that, like the other two presidents who were impeached before him, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, Trump will go on to be acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is "zero chance" Trump will be removed from office. And McConnell and other GOP senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have made clear they will not approach the trial as impartial jurors.

Meanwhile, Trump still has a very good shot at being reelected. A Gallup poll released on the day of his impeachment showed Trump with a 45% approval rating overall, and an 89% approval rating among Republican voters. The poll also found 42% of independents approve of the job Trump is doing.

A 45% approval rating is not stellar, but Trump does not need to be overwhelmingly popular to win reelection in 2020. He won the 2016 election with 46% of the popular vote.

Trump was the most unpopular presidential candidate for a major party in modern US history in 2016 - with 61% of US voters viewing him negatively, Gallup polling showed at the time. His victory on Election Day was not the landslide Trump makes it out to be, but he still won.

With Democrats all over the place, Trump has unified the GOP behind him

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question from reporters next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as he arrives for a closed Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo


FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump arrives for closed Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington


A USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released within the past week showed that, even in the days leading up to his widely expected impeachment, Trump was leading all of the top contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.

This poll accounted for an unnamed third-party candidate receiving between 11% and 15% in the head-to-head contests, which could've boosted Trump's numbers and lead some to view its findings as misleading. Other recent polls have showed Trump narrowly trailing top 2020 Democrats, which suggests that, no matter what, the nation should brace itself for a tight, heated race next year.

With Democrats somewhat splintered and without a clear frontrunner at the moment, this isn't entirely surprising.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been firmly at the top of the polls among 2020 Democrats for months. But his campaign has yet to garner the energy and enthusiasm to make him appear a truly formidable opponent to Trump, who has been dragging Biden's name through the dirt amid the impeachment proceedings. His moderate platform could be viewed by some as a safe bet and a path toward a return to a sense of normalcy, but he's pushing for it at a time when the party is split between centrists and left-leaning progressives.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both for the most part jockeyed for second place closely behind the former vice president. But they have also outshined Biden in a number of respects, including coherent messaging and fundraising.

With that said, both candidates might be viewed as too radical or to the left of the political spectrum by many US voters, particularly given polling shows many still hold negative views of socialism and both have become associated with the term (even though Warren identifies as a capitalist and not as a democratic socialist like Sanders).
The two progressive candidates have more or less set the terms for the central discussion of the 2020 Democratic primary with their push for Medicare for All, but polling shows mixed views among voters on universal healthcare.

Multiple polls have also suggested that Democratic voters are prioritizing electability over where candidates stand on the issues. In other words, Democrats just want someone they believe can defeat Trump, and appear to be generally less concerned with taking big steps on issues like health care.

Meanwhile, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a candidate who has surprised many and ranks in fourth in many polls, has virtually no support among voters of color. Though he's polling well in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, he's poised to suffer major defeats in more diverse states.

In short, much is up in the air for the Democrats when it comes to 2020. But Trump will enter the new year with both GOP lawmakers and voters lined up behind him with unflinching loyalty.

Trump is also benefiting from relatively strong numbers in terms of the economy. A CNBC All-America Economic Survey released Wednesday found that 49% of Americans approve of the president's handling of the economy.He is extremely unpopular nationwide. He's among the most controversial presidents in US history. He has confounded political analysts and continues to pose novel challenges to the US political system, stretching America's democracy to its limits. And as of last night, he's been impeached. One of the two articles of impeachment the House approved against Trump was for abuse of power over allegations of a complex scheme to pressure a foreign country, in this case Ukraine, to interfere in the 2020 election.

But none of this appears to be an obstacle to Trump's potential reelection in 2020.

Trump is the third president in the nation's history to be impeached, but he could be the first president to serve a second term after such a profound political denunciation. He could also be the first commander-in-chief to be formally accused by the House of undermining the integrity of an election he's participating in, while still going on to win it.