Former U.S. president Donald Trump lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, signalling a growing feud between the two most important voices in the Republican Party.
“Mitch is a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump said in a statement released through his political action committee amid the fallout over his second impeachment trial.
Trump and McConnell parted ways in the weeks after the Nov. 3 presidential election, with Trump irked that McConnell had recognized Democrat Joe Biden as the winner.
They have not spoken since, a former White House official said.
The loss of both the White House to Biden and control of the Senate — which Democrats picked up in a pair of upset Georgia election run-off victories last month — leaves Republicans on edge as they plot how to win back congressional control in 2022.
The gap between the two men widened when McConnell declared on the Senate floor on Saturday that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
‘He didn’t get away with anything yet’
Minutes after the Senate voted Saturday, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican leader said Trump’s actions surrounding the attack on Congress were “a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty,” adding he was outraged by the violence and Trump’s repeated false claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.
He even noted that although Trump is now out of office, he remains subject to the country’s criminal and civil laws.
“He didn’t get away with anything yet,” McConnell said.
The two are trying to push the party in opposite directions — McConnell back toward the roots of a budget-focused, pro-trade party, while Trump, who is still backed by a large portion of the Republican voter base, advocates a more populist approach.
Trump vows to stay involved
McConnell, who normally stays out of intra-party conflict, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Monday that he would consider “trying to affect the outcome of the primaries” during the 2022 congressional campaign season.
He said that he welcomed Republicans of all stripes, but “what I care about is electability.”
In his statement on Tuesday, Trump pledged he will continue to be involved in Republican politics.
“Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership.”
A decade ago, when Republicans took a sharp turn to the right with the Tea Party movement, it was McConnell who pointed out that the movement’s right-wing candidates may have been able to win some Republican Senate primaries but often sank in the general election.
That era saw the Democratic majority in the Senate swell to 59-41 by 2009. Republicans reclaimed the majority in 2015, in part due to McConnell’s support of more moderate Republican Senate candidates.
Despite their current differences, McConnell played a major role during Trump’s administration in helping pass the president’s signature 2017 tax cut and in confirming three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Look, he warned you. Way back at the dawn of his political adventure, Donald Trump opined that his supporters would stay with him forever, even if he pulled out a gun and shot somebody in the middle of a Manhattan avenue.
That proposition has fortunately never been tested.
Yet his second impeachment, and the 57-43 vote which led to his acquittal, have managed to unearth thorny truths about American politics and his indelible place in it.
One obvious takeaway from this unusual episode is that the U.S. Constitution’s impeachment provisions have revealed themselves to be a dull-toothed tiger.
This has potentially long-lasting implications: Trump could run for office again, and the country’s constitutional guardrails have proven feeble at a time of mounting threats to democracy.
The Senate’s most powerful figure, Democrat Chuck Schumer, called it a vote that will live in infamy and expressed his fear of this acquittal setting a precedent with bleak implications for the republic.
“If encouraging political violence becomes the norm, it will be open season — open season — on our democracy,” Schumer, the Senate’s majority leader, said.
“Everything will be up for grabs by whoever has the biggest clubs; the sharpest spears; the most powerful guns.”
His Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, spent minutes on the Senate floor also ripping into Trump, saying the former president could yet face criminal and civil threats and that he hadn’t gotten away with anything.
McConnell voted to acquit Trump, however, which he described as a technical matter of agreeing with scholars who argue you can’t convict a former official.
Forty-three of the 50 Senate Republicans opposed conviction. Strikingly, this is weak by historical standards: The seven Republicans voting to convict a president of their own party actually set a new record.
And that speaks volumes about how impeachment has worked.
Political parties didn’t exist back when the framers, in their powdered wigs, gathered in downtown Philadelphia to put impeachment rules to paper in 1787 — let alone today’s entrenched party solidarity, which renders the idea of achieving a Senate conviction as remote to our generation as a presidential tweetstorm would have seemed to James Madison’s.
Trump has now single-handedly created a fuller sample size to measure what happens when an impeachment case reaches the Senate, by doubling the number of presidential impeachments in U.S. history from two to four.
The answer is: probably nothing.
Attaining that 67-vote threshold to convict is hard when the person on trial is the de facto leader of one party in the chamber; it’s even harder when Congress is deeply unpopular, and senators are being asked to turf a leader their supporters prefer to them.
Most Republicans made clear they wanted to avoid the trial, and the few who’d backed impeachment faced the wrath of Trump supporters in their home states.
It was all pretty predictable.
They sat through days of testimony where Democrats accused the ex-president of the most serious crime ever committed against the republic by an American commander-in-chief: turning a mob against the state.
Was there a point to all of this?
Republicans watched presentations accusing Trump of whipping up this mob with years of violence-threatening rhetoric; of fomenting its anger with weeks of delusional attacks on the election result; and of timing it all to crash into the Capitol on Jan. 6, when he organized a rally just as lawmakers met to certify the election of Joe Biden as president.
Trump’s lawyers countered that, yes, he urged supporters to march on the Capitol — but, they noted, Trump told them to stay peaceful, and when he urged them to “fight like hell,” they said, he was using a term commonly employed by all politicians.
If the result was so utterly predictable, then that in itself raises an important question. Was this pointless?
It’s far too soon to conclude that this process left Trump unblemished — or for that matter that he leads a consequence-free political existence.
Accountability mechanisms still exist in American politics, even if dented and hammered beyond the shape originally fashioned by the founders.
There are at least four potential consequences for Trump’s past actions.
The impeachment itself, for starters, might have failed to deliver Trump a short-term sting but will carry a long-term stink.
For as long as there’s an American republic, schoolchildren will ask about that president who got impeached twice.
Joseph Ellis, a presidential historian who participates in academic surveys ranking presidents, has said the likelihood of Trump being ranked dead last went up with his record-setting second impeachment.
The impeachment also allows voters, both in the Republican primaries and in the general election in 2024, to evaluate how candidates handled this moment. Did they back Trump strongly or meekly? Did they oppose him? Did they duck the debate?
Next: ‘Serious’ criminal investigations
A second source of potential trouble ahead for Trump: the legal system. Prosecutors in several jurisdictions have publicly revealed they’ve opened criminal investigations related to him.
When asked about the likely outcome, two former prosecutors told CBC News they wouldn’t be surprised to see charges against Trump.
In fact, said Ben Gershman, who specialized in corruption cases at the Manhattan district level and state level in New York and now teaches law at Pace University: “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t charged.”
Nick Akerman, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, described Trump’s legal exposure as: “Extremely serious. On the tax, the mortgage fraud [laws] and the matter in Georgia, where he’s on tape.”
The ultimate punishment
A third potential source of scrutiny involves investigations into what happened on Jan. 6. There have already been different processes launched in Congress, and there will be others, probing the attack and how the Trump administration responded.
Finally, there’s the punishment Trump has already started suffering: The sting of electoral rejection.
That metaphor Trump used about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue was never completely accurate. It’s broadly, but not totally, true that his voters are an unbreakable block.
After four years of Trump’s presidency, a tiny percentage soured on him, in small-but-sufficient numbers to cost him some states.
That much-vaunted unflappability of his base cannot obscure the fact that not once — not for a moment in Trump’s presidency — did he build on that base to achieve approval numbers anywhere close to the ones currently enjoyed by Biden. Several surveys showed majority or plurality support for impeaching Trump.
Now settled into his post-presidency in his seaside home at Mar-a-Lago, Trump will keep arguing that he was robbed in the election.
He has insisted, and will keep insisting forever, that he was a victim of the courts, the Democrats, weak-kneed Republican officials and voting machines in a supposed conspiracy that cost him numerous swing states, and he’ll correctly point to the near-record total of 74 million votes he received.
But it won’t change a thing about Trump’s status: defeated president.
Nothing he does will erase the other verdict rendered in a larger political court, by a record-smashing number of voters — 81,268,924 people who did what Republican senators never would to Donald John Trump.
All but five U.S. Senate Republicans voted in favour of an effort to dismiss Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial on Tuesday, making clear a conviction of the former president for “incitement of insurrection” after the deadly Capitol siege on Jan. 6 is unlikely.
The 55-45 procedural vote to set aside an objection from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul puts the Senate on record as declaring the proceedings constitutional and means the trial on Trump’s impeachment, the first of a former president, will begin as scheduled the week of Feb. 8. The House impeached him two weeks ago for inciting deadly riots in the Capitol on Jan. 6 when he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat.
But at the same time, the final tally shows it is unlikely there will be enough votes for conviction, which requires the support of all Democrats and 17 Republicans, or two-thirds of the Senate. While most Republicans criticized Trump shortly after the attack, many of them have since rushed to defend him, showing the former president’s enduring sway over the Republican Party.
“If more than 34 Republicans vote against the constitutionality of the proceeding, the whole thing’s dead on arrival,” Paul said shortly before the vote.” Paul said Democrats “probably should rest their case and present no case at all.”
“I think this was indicative of where a lot of people’s heads are,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, after the vote.
The five Republicans who voted with Democrats to allow the trial to proceed were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — all recent critics of the former president and his effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said Trump “provoked” the riots and indicated he is open to conviction, voted with Paul to move toward dismissing the trial.
Presiding Democrat taken to hospital
Late Tuesday, the presiding officer at the trial, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was taken to the hospital for observation after not feeling well at his office, spokesman David Carle said in a statement. The 80-year-old senator was examined by the Capitol’s attending physician, who recommended he be taken to the hospital out of an abundance of caution, he said. Carle said Leahy was later sent home “after a thorough examination” and was looking forward to getting back to work.
Many Republican senators, including Paul, have challenged the legitimacy of the trial and questioned whether Trump’s repeated demands to overturn Joe Biden’s election really constitute “incitement of insurrection.”
So what seemed for some Democrats like an open-and-shut case that played out for the world on live television is running into a Republican Party that feels very different. Not only are there legal concerns, but senators are wary of crossing the former president and his legions of followers.
As Republicans said the trial is not legitimate, Democrats rejected that argument, pointing to an 1876 impeachment of a secretary of war who had already resigned and to opinions by many legal scholars.
Democrats also say that a reckoning of the first invasion of the Capitol since the War of 1812, perpetrated by rioters egged on by a president as electoral college votes were being tallied, is necessary.
On Monday, the nine House Democrats prosecuting the case against Trump carried the sole impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection” across the Capitol in a solemn and ceremonial march along the same halls the rioters ransacked three weeks ago.
The lead House prosecutor, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, stood before the Senate to describe the violent events of Jan. 6 — five people died — and read the House resolution charging “high crimes and misdemeanours.”
Republicans came to Trump’s legal defence.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas asked if Congress starts holding impeachment trials of former officials, what’s next: “Could we go back and try President Obama?”
Besides, he suggested, Trump has already been held to account. “One way in our system you get punished is losing an election.”
For Democrats the tone, tenor and length of the trial so early in Biden’s presidency poses its own challenge, forcing them to strike a balance between their vow to hold Trump accountable and their eagerness to deliver on the new administration’s priorities following their sweep of control of the House, Senate and White House.
Leaders in both parties agreed to a short delay in the proceedings, which serves their political and practical interests, even as National Guard troops remain at the Capitol because of security threats to lawmakers ahead of the trial.
The start date gives Trump’s new legal team time to prepare its case, while also providing more than a month’s distance from the passions of the bloody riot. For the Democratic-led Senate, the intervening weeks provide prime time to confirm some of Biden’s key Cabinet nominees.
Donald Trump could have spent his final weeks in office boasting about his Republican administration’s achievements and trying to solidify his status as the most significant voice in the party and possible front-runner for the presidential nomination in four years.
Instead, the 45th president of the United States focused on fuelling conspiracy theories in a futile attempt to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
In doing so, he departed the White House on Wednesday still under the cloud of his supporters’ riot in the Capitol building. He returns to private life as the only president to have been impeached twice, and with some senior members of a now significantly divided Republican Party seemingly turning their backs on him.
“It was just an unmitigated disaster of missed opportunities and terrible judgment,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
He said Trump had an opportunity to spend these past weeks becoming the most successful lame duck president in history, by helping with coronavirus relief negotiations and supporting a defence policy that included raises for troops.
But Trump didn’t play a constructive role in either file, he said.
Missed opportunity in Georgia Senate races
Trump could have also tried to help Republicans win the two Senate run-off races in Georgia earlier this month instead of sabotaging the campaigns by casting doubt on the electoral process with unfounded fraud allegations, Jennings said. The Republicans ended up losing both run-offs and control of the Senate.
“And, of course, he could have decided not to incite a violent insurrection at the U.S Capitol,” Jennings said, referring to the article of impeachment against Trump that is expected to go to the Senate for a trial. “When you consider all of the things that he could have done, it could have been a lot different for him.”
Trump’s behaviour was particularly counterproductive if you consider that he clearly wants to continue being involved in politics, Jennings said.
“Everything he did in the lame duck period drastically diminished that possibility.”
Had Trump conceded the election back in November, he may have been remembered as a disruptive but consequential president, said Matthew Connetti, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
For Republicans, the Trump administration’s list of achievements would include tax cuts; deregulation; brokering diplomatic deals in the Middle East; and, perhaps most importantly, the appointment of many conservative judges, including three Supreme Court justices.
“He would have been the undisputed front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination. But that’s not how things turned out,” Connetti said in an email to CBC News.
Impeachment trial looms
Although he is out of office, Trump faces the possibility of an impeachment trial and conviction in the Senate and a vote to bar him from running for office again.
“Trump’s refusal to concede, his increasingly desperate and dangerous attempts to overturn the election, his incitement of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and his decision not to welcome Joe Biden to the White House or to attend Biden’s inauguration nullified a record of policy accomplishments,” Connetti said.
Trump still has a large base of supportwithin the Republican Party and among the conservative grassroots. Millions of his supporters agree with the baseless claims that the presidential election was rigged and stolen. Still, there are clear signs Trump’s power within the party has diminished since the riot in the Capitol.
At his departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, only about 300 people were in attendance. His guests included his family, outgoing White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and other current and former aides, the Washington Post reported.
But there were notable absences among top-ranking Republican officials. McConnell, who has been openly critical of Trump’s role in the U.S. Capitol riot, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were no-shows, having opted to attend church with Biden before heading over to the inauguration.
Perhaps the most significant absence was that of Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, who also attended Biden’s inauguration. (Pence’s spokespeople had previously said logistical issues would prevent him from attending both events.)
Trump had blamed Pence for refusing to block congressional certification of the electoral college votes on Jan. 6 — a power Pence never actually had at his disposal.
The New York Times reported that aides had tried to get more officials to come to Trump’s departure, but many were still upset over his post-election behaviour and how it overshadowed the administration’s achievements.
Some of his aides who had been with him the longest said they did not even watch the send-off on television, the paper reported.
WATCH | Trump delivers his final address as president:
U.S. President Donald Trump formally left the White House after a struggle to hang on to office by trying to overturn the results of a democratic election. 2:13
At the national level, the Republican Party is now split in two, said Michael Cornfield, a political scientist at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C.
“And the traditional Republican Party went to [the inauguration]. But the loyalists came with him to the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base.“
Connetti said there will always be a segment of the population that continues to believe Donald Trump was a great president.
“But it is a minority,” he said, “and now the Republican Party, as a result of Trump’s actions since November, is in a state of civil war.”
This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
If you wanted early clues to how Donald Trump’s presidency would unfold, you needed only examine his record as a sports industry mogul.
You could, for example, single out Trump’s bad-faith invocation of the war clause in a contract to host the Evander Holyfield-George Foreman heavyweight title fight at one of his struggling Atlantic City hotels in 1991. The clause allowed parties to void parts of the deal if war broke out on U.S. soil, but Trump refused to pay promoters the agreed-upon site fee when U.S. troops launched Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait.
Trump wasn’t a complete failure as a sports executive. As owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, he ordered the team’s coaches — until then reluctant to overuse Herschel Walker — to feed the superstar running back all the carries he could handle. Walker responded by shattering records, rushing for 2,411 yards in 1985.
Of course, sports business success involves solving problems more complex than whether to give the ball to a once-in-a-generation talent like Walker. Trump’s long-term plan, expertly chronicled in Jeff Pearlman’s Football for A Buck, was to steer the USFL into head-to-head competition with the NFL, then force the NFL to absorb the Generals into the league and Trump into its exclusive club of owners.
WATCH | Bring It In: Breaking down sports fallout from Capitol siege:
Morgan Campbell and Bring It In’s Washington-based panellists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin discuss the sports fallout from the siege on Capitol Hill 30:32
Except Trump drove the fledgling league straight into a ditch. It folded after three seasons, but won an antitrust suit against the NFL — the judge awarded the USFL a single dollar in damages.
Those details didn’t foretell exactly how Trump’s one-term presidency would end — with an angry mob of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol building in a spasm of treasonous violence that would lead to five deaths and more than 100 arrests. But Trump’s record as a sports executive did signal a willingness to double-cross partners and create intractable scandals, then leave others behind to clean up his messes.
Trump is bad for business
Trump loyalists like Alabama senator and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville still appear eager to follow the lame-duck president wherever he leads them, but the broader sports world seems, finally, to have figured out Trump is bad for business.
On Sunday, the PGA announced it would no longer hold its 2022 championship at Trump National golf course in New Jersey. Then golf’s worldwide governing body confirmed that the British Open would not return to Turnberry, a Trump-owned club in Scotland. And on Monday, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick declined to join Trump at the White House to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
As president, Trump has used sports as a platform for his performative patriotism — witness his call for NFL teams to cut “sons of b—-es” who kneel during pre-game anthems. And he has used sports to launder his image — witness his posthumous pardoning of heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 2018, and subsequent photo-op with prominent Black boxers like Deontay Wilder and Lennox Lewis.
But after a gang of far-right marauders ransacked the Capitol and slayed a cop in Trump’s name, leagues are cutting ties and Trump is discovering he can no longer Stick to Sports.
“It has become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand,” said PGA of America President Jim Bridgerton in a video statement. “It was a decision made to ensure that PGA of America and the PGA Professionals can continue to lead and grow our great game.”
That severed relationship might cut Trump as deeply as being dumped by Twitter did. According to TrumpGolfCount.com, the outgoing president has spent 298 days playing golf since taking office, costing taxpayers roughly $ 144 million.
An angry mob of U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed into the U.S. Capitol Building as Congress was preparing to certify the results of November’s election after Trump repeatedly said the election was rigged against him. 7:16
Britain’s government turned Johnson down as quickly as Belichick did this week. And the knowledge that he couldn’t lure an NFL coach to Washington for another photo-op, even when offering the nation’s highest civilian honour, must also sting. To the extent that Trump can muster loyalty to entities besides himself, he’s a New England Patriots fan. Team owner Robert Kraft even gifted him a ring the last time New England won the Super Bowl.
But Belichick, correctly, deduced that accepting a medal from Trump a week after the president’s supporters overran senate chambers would help normalize deeply troubling acts.
“I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honour represents and admiration for prior recipients,” Belichick said in a statement. “Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy.”
Trump still has sport-connected allies working to overturn president-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Inside the Capitol, Tuberville and Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, wrestling coach at Ohio State during that program’s sex abuse scandal, are on the record opposing the certification of November’s election results. And the violent gang breaking into the building included Klete Keller, a gold-medal winning swimmer who skulked through the Capitol rotunda in his Team USA jacket.
But it’s not surprising that prominent sports figures are seeking distance from the outgoing president, not just because he incited an insurrection, but because of how he has behaved since Biden’s clear victory.
Imagine Ohio State football coach Ryan Day dialling up College Football Playoff officials after his team’s 52-24 loss to Alabama in the championship game, then begging him to find him 29 points so he can declare his team the winner and collect a six-figure championship bonus. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s no different from Trump on a recent phone call, pleading with Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn that state’s federal election results.
Or picture Day persuading committee members not to hand the championship trophy to Alabama coach Nick Saban, while spurring armed Buckeye fans to a violent revolt against the very idea of settling championships on the field. Better just to name Ohio State champions in perpetuity.
All of those tactics are par for a Trumpworld course, but will also doom many of his other sports relationships.
The sports world worships winners, and Trump is recent history’s sorest loser.
WATCH | Brint It In: 2020 year in review:
It’s the final episode of Bring It In for 2020, and Morgan Campbell is joined by Dave Zirin, and Meghan McPeak to discuss the biggest sports moments of the year. 21:18
U.S. President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time in an unprecedented House vote Wednesday, a week after he encouraged a mob of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results just before they stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly siege.
Trump, who would become the only U.S. president twice impeached, faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”
The stunning collapse of Trump’s final days in office, against alarming warnings of more violence ahead by his followers, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
The House chaplain opened the session early Wednesday with a prayer for “seizing the scales of justice from the jaws of mob-ocracy.”
Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern began to make the party’s case that the only remedy was Trump’s removal.
“Domestic terrorists broke into the United States Capitol and it’s a miracle more people didn’t die,” McGovern said of the Jan. 6 violence.
“These were not protesters. These were not patriots. These were traitors. These were domestic terrorists, and they were acting under the orders of Donald Trump,” he added.
Republicans push for censure, commission
Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole urged Democrats to consider other measures, and he and colleagues from his party who spoke early on pushed for a formal censure that Cole claimed would have “significant bipartisan support,” as well as a national commission to understand the events that lead to the deadly Capitol siege.
“There’s still time to choose a different path, one that leads to reconciliation,” said Cole.
Cole objected to what he called a rushed process, with no scheduled witnesses testifying. He said that legal experts in the past week have arrived at “dramatically different conclusions” as to whether Trump’s words and actions justified an impeachment charge.
Five deaths have been connected to the Jan. 6 riots, two in violent fashion. A San Diego woman who travelled to Washington to protest the certification of Biden’s win, Ashli Babbitt, was shot to death, while Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was assaulted in the violence and later died in hospital.
Three other people were said to have suffered medical episodes leading to death, while another Capitol Police officer on duty that day died by suicide on Jan. 9.
Lawmakers had to scramble for safety and hide as rioters took control of the Capitol and delayed by hours the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.
The outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”
WATCH l Trump pans House’s efforts:
Staging what will surely be one of his ‘last stands’ before a section of border wall in Texas, U.S. President Donald Trump praised his accomplishments while deriding Democratic efforts to impeach him for the second time even as members of Congress prepare for an impeachment vote. 3:02
The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in building its case for high crimes and misdemeanours as demanded in the Constitution.
Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him, rather than his actions around the bloody riot, that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.
Limited House Republican support so far
At least five Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were unswayed by the president’s logic. The Republicans announced they would vote to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership and the party itself.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is said to be angry at Trump, and it’s unclear how an impeachment trial would play out. In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a top Trump ally, scrambled to suggest a lighter censure instead, but that option crumbled.
So far, Republican Reps. John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; Fred Upton of Michigan; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state announced they, too, would join Cheney to vote to impeach.
The House tried first to push Vice-President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
The resolution urged Pence to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”
Pence made it clear he would not do so, saying in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”
With new security, lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about the screening.
The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
Trump was impeached just over a year ago for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for trying to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to help damage Biden politically.
His doomed crusade to overturn the U.S. election result crossed a milestone following electoral college meetings Monday that formally selected Joe Biden as the next president.
Not in a century and a half,since the post-Civil War era, has a defeated presidential candidate continued to challenge the results past those electoral college meetings.
That’s where Trump now finds himself. He has persisted in peddling the idea he can still win even after losing Monday in the formal electoral votes.
He not only denied the electoral college reality in a flurry of defiant tweets: Trump’s campaign also convinced groups of Republicans to organize their own parallel meetings in various swing states and declare him the winner.
It’s part of a no-hope effort to persuade the U.S. Congress to call the election result erroneous and to vote to overturn it.
“This is off the charts,” said Alexander Keyssar, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and author of abook on the history of the electoral college.
“It’s very unusual.”
Keyssar said there have often been arguments about elections, and recounts, and even court fights like the one in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
There was also a protest froma few Democrats who delayed, by a couple of hours, congressional certification of Bush’s win in Ohio in 2004.
But what’s novel, he said, is the losing candidate insisting on fighting after 538 voters of the electoral college formalize the results across the country.
That threshold was breached Monday.
Trump allies suggested they intended to keep the struggle going until a final showdown: when members of Congress meet onJan. 6 at 1 p.m.ET to complete the final step in the selection of the president.
Several election experts dismissed Trump’s alternate slate gambit as futile.
WATCH | Trump supporters gather in Washington D.C. to protest election results:
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump rallied in Washington, D.C., to decry presidential election results, two days before the electoral college meets to certify Joe BIden’s win. 3:00
The congressional numbers simply aren’t there for him: For Trump to get the required simple majority in both houses of Congress to nullify certain states’ votes, he would need a string of unprecedented and, frankly, unfathomable developments.
For starters, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would have to agree to it. It’s highly unlikely he would even get the tiny Republican Senate majority to go along, given that several Senate Republicans have already recognized or even congratulated Biden on his win. Both chambers would need to nullify the results in at least three states, strip Biden of at least 37 electoral votes to keep him under the 270 majority, and then to force what’s called acontingent election in which each state delegation in Congress gets a vote.
“Not gonna happen. It’s just not gonna happen,” Keyssar said.
There’s no sign Trump has the required support even within his own party — as a growing number of Republican lawmakers declared Monday, eitherbluntly ortentatively, that it’s over and Biden has won.
In state capitals, a number of top state-level Republicans have also made clear they won’t help Trump fight the result through their own legislatures.
Republican leaders in Michigan issued statements calling Biden the election winner Monday — it drew a torrent ofangry comments online from Republican voters.
The author of a two-year oldpaper that previewed how mail-in ballots could prompt legal feuds and chaos said this is it for Trump.
Edward Foley said that after dozens of court losses, and after Monday’s 306-232 loss in the electoral college, Trump can try whatever he wants with Congress.
“It’s still not going to affect the result,” said Foley, director of Ohio State University’s election-law program and author of different books on the electoral college and disputed elections.
But he said the prolonged feud can still damage the country.
Electoral college votes under cloud of security
At least four people werestabbed and one wasshot last weekend during election-related street confrontations between opponents and supporters of the president in Washington, D.C., and Washington State.
Security concerns prompted authorities to take unusual precautions to protect members of the electoral college.
In Michigan, Chris Cracchiolo accepted a police escort to the event in the state legislature; police had urged lawmakersto avoid the building because of credible threats of violence.
“I wouldn’t have believed it,” Cracchiolo said in an interview, referring to the tension surrounding the vote.
“So many things over the last four years have shocked me. … So many things [where] I just shake my head and say, ‘I’ve never seen this before.'”
Cracchiolo, a sales representative for three decades for AT&T, is now a volunteer with the state Democratic Party. At a meeting this past summer, he was selected by members in his area to be one of Michigan’s 16 electors.
He said he felt a bit nervous during the three-hour drive Monday from his home in northern Michigan to Lansing, the state capital.
Ultimately, though, he saw very few pro-Trump protesters on the way into the legislature; after the meeting, he waved off the offer of a police escort and walked back, unsupervised, to the parking lot.
He said he’s hopeful American politics will get back to a calmer place after the pandemic. He said the incoming president, Biden, is well-suited to that nation-soothing task.
Yet events elsewhere on the Michigan legislature grounds suggested dreams of national unity may have to wait a while.
A group of Michigan Republicans arrived for a planned meeting to choose a competing slate of Trump electors and were toldto leave by a police officer.
At the Trump campaign’s request, such unofficial electoral college meetings were held by Republicans in different states, inArizona,Pennsylvania,Georgia and elsewhere.
Trump aide Stephen Miller described the latest plan in an interview with Fox News.
“We’re going to send those [competing lists] up to Congress,” Miller said.
Security and secret sites
Meanwhile, the campaign will keep fighting in court, arguing that states failed to follow election laws, and hope that some court victories persuade Congress to appoint Trump in its Jan. 6 votes.
The Trump campaign has lost dozens of court cases so far.
In Pennsylvania, Marian Moskowitz arrived for her meeting at an undisclosed location.
As a member of the electoral college she knew the plan was to meet at the Forum auditorium in the state capital of Harrisburg.
But the site was kept secret from the public for security precautions. Moskowitz, an early Biden supporter, got a call from the party last month inviting her to be an elector.
“It was just so overwhelming. So humbling and exciting. All these emotions go through you,” she said, expressing pride in being able to cast a vote for the first female vice-president, and first Black vice-president, Kamala Harris.
‘Just the craziest year’
She pulled up to a parking garage and a shuttle transported her to the meeting location where 20 Pennsylvanians voted for Biden.
“It’s just just the craziest year. Don’t you feel like you’re living in a novel somewhere?” Moskowitz said, referring to the unusually high security precautions.
“I am concerned. I think we can see now with this president how vulnerable our democracy truly is. That one person can change the way we function.”
Biden, for his part, saluted the resiliency of the U.S. electoral system.
In a speech Monday night, he said there’s now evidence that nothing — not even a pandemic, or an abuse of power — can extinguish American democracy.
On that fateful day in June 2015 that he rode down a gilded escalator into the world of electoral politics, Donald Trump’s critics saw a pastel-faced buffoon destined to melt away after an attention-seeking stint in the political sun.
How wrong they were.
Trump will never truly go away. A closer-than-expected election makes it only that much clearer that defeat is but a prelude to Trump’s next act as a permanent fixture on the American political scene.
It’s not just that his thirst for the stage has allies predicting that he’ll run again in 2024, and that in the meantime, he’ll keep doing rallies and act as the leader of the opposition.
It’s that Trump has already left an indelible mark on the nation he leads, revealing several truths about it in the process.
WATCH | Americans cheer and denounce Biden victory:
Voters gathered in cities across the United States to celebrate and decry the election of Joe Biden as president. 4:43
The elements of Trumpism
There have been countless newspaper columns, books and academic studies asking what drove Trumpism: Was it economics? Was it racism? A new nationalism? Nostalgia? The joy of an unpredictable carnival?
It was all of the above.
If several years of talking to his supporters has illustrated anything, it’s that human beings can hold multiple overlapping feelings at once.
Take Chip Paquette, for instance.
Early on in the Trump phenomenon, at a 2016 primary rally in New Hampshire, the retired police officer chuckled at the candidate’s antics, elbowing his seat neighbour as if at a comedy show. He howled with laughter when Trump referred to Sen. Ted Cruz as a “pussy.”
In a conversation with a reporter later, he said he missed the good old days — back when a cop could punch a suspect, without controversy.
He questioned the wisdom of free trade and expressed a desire for more tariffs on imports: “We’re losing jobs,” he said.
Then, finally, he casually brought up something else he liked about Trump: “I like the idea of him banning the Muslims.”
The Trump campaign’s proposed Muslim ban evolved after he took office, becoming a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries. It underwent other iterations, amid legal disputes, and triggered protests from people disgusted that this campaign promise ever saw the light of day in a country with religious freedom stamped into its founding DNA.
Trump smashed enough norms that he’ll be studied by future generations in political-science departments around the world.
He also revealed things about the modern-day U.S. — and some of those lessons hold implications far beyond American territory, touching every nation.
The first is that the U.S. will be a less-predictable partner.
Trump’s policy legacy stretches far beyond U.S.
There’s no guarantee agreements with one U.S. administration will survive a change in government. That unpredictability stretches beyond Trump to past examples such as Bill Clinton’s signing of the Kyoto climate accord and George W. Bush shunning it.
“This egg can’t be unscrambled,” wrote Trump critic and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman last month in a New York Times column titled “Trump Killed the Pax Americana.”
“No matter how good a global citizen America becomes in the next few years, everyone will remember that we’re a country that elected someone like Donald Trump, and could do it again.”
Trump turned the page on a chapter of American history written after the Second World War, in which a young superpower helped build new global institutions in the hope of creating a long-lasting peace.
It’s unclear what the postscript to the postwar era would look like.
Trump did shift attention to a new geopolitical challenge: China. His administration struck a more aggressive posture, and accused China of breaking its promises to the West.
There’s a huge audience for this message.
Passionate devotion equals continuing power
One Republican operative said whether or not he runs for president again, Trump’s policies on China, trade and immigration will have a lingering effect.
“We don’t know what Trump’s role in the party is going to be going forward, [and] is he going to be keeping open the option of perhaps running again in 2024,” said Matt Mackowiak, a party organizer and consultant.
“I do think he’s changed the party in significant ways.”
Trump’s message not only drew record turnout from working-class white Americans, but he also made inroads in his second race among groups that rarely vote Republican.
Trump performed better with Black men, Latino and Asian-American voters this year than he did four years ago.
To be clear, he still won only a small percentage of minority voters. But some were among his staunchest defenders.
Sylvia Menchaca, a Mexican restaurant owner near Phoenix, applauded Trump for putting his country first and wanting immigration limits.
She told CBC News she felt sorry for migrant children separated from parents at the border, but, she said, the country needed to get immigration under control.
“I love him,” said Menchaca, who described herself as a religious woman. “Trump is similar to one of the kings in the Bible. Nobody in the Bible is perfect.… But some of them were blessed by God to run a country.”
Nothing would ever rattle her support for him, she said.
WATCH | Trump supporters in Arizona react to Biden win:
In spite of widespread projections for a Joe Biden win, Donald Trump supporters at a pre-planned gathering site in Phoenix, Ariz., Saturday insisted Biden is not the next president and repeated Trump’s unproven allegations of voter fraud. 2:12
Trump sounded real — even when he was lying
One reason Trump engendered uncommon devotion was he didn’t sound like a politician — he sounded real while other politicians relied on scripts and talking points.
Yet his telling-it-like-it-is effect was chronically undermined by one uncomfortable truth: He lied. He lied a lot.
This is different from most politicians who will often exaggerate, and frequently obfuscate, while generally avoiding flat-out lies.
Trump operated on another level.
When it came to spouting untruths, he pivoted from one to another with the same painless strokes reminiscent of his supporter, Bobby Orr, gliding across a hockey rink.
Half the country fumed; the other half brushed it off.
He left Americans split on an uncommon range of issues: COVID-19 mask-wearing; Black Lives Matter; voting by mail. They all became litmus tests of political loyalty.
You were with him or against him, right down to the end, when the polarizing question became whether or not you would support his attack on the accuracy of a U.S. election.
WATCH | Voters with opposing views of Donald Trump converge on Atlanta after 2020 election is called:
Pro-Trump and anti-Trump protesters are gathering and, at times, jeering each other on an Atlanta street in the open-carry state amid projections for a Joe Biden presidency from major networks. 5:41
These constant battles divided families, and it’s no exaggeration to say he even had a polarizing effect on mating rituals. Trump fans, and people abhorred by Trump fans, split off into separate dating sites, with names such as Donald Daters and Trump Singles.
One Florida widow said people just simply want to know, before investing time in someone, whether their values are compatible, and she sees Trump support as a test of values.
She was no fan. She said Trump has stoked the country’s divisions and made people angrier, and she didn’t vote for him despite being a Republican.
“Politics used to be a part of your life, but it didn’t consume your life,” said Arlene Macellaro. “But now it seems like the thing to do in my Republican Party is to be angry.”
People in her Florida retirement community tell stories you often hear in the U.S. these days — of old friendships suspended over differences on Trump.
WATCH | Florida voter Arlene Macellaro reflects on how Trump changed Americans’ engagement with politics:
Arlene Macellaro lives in a staunchly Republican retirement city in Florida called The Villages, but says she won’t be voting for Donald Trump this election. 0:31
One final and perhaps most fundamental truth the Trump era exposed is that democracy may be more fragile than assumed — that the rules protecting it may exist primarily on paper but are, in the end, enforced by a civic spirit.
In a bitterly polarized era pitting the blue team versus the red team, old norms were occasionally discarded.
WATCH | Trump accuses Democrats of trying to ‘steal the election’:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday that Democrats could ‘try to steal the election from us’ if ‘illegal votes’ cast after election day were counted. There is no evidence that ballots were cast after Nov. 3. 0:40
Ask a foreign government to investigate Joe Biden? It’s what got him impeached. And there were no real-time consequences.
He lost precisely one Republican in the impeachment vote: Mitt Romney, and for that act of alleged betrayal, the former Republican presidential nominee was quickly shunned by party grassroots members.
Trump became the first impeached president to lead his party into another election.
WATCH | Did Trump deliver on his 2016 promises?:
From boosting manufacturing in the United States to building a border wall, Donald Trump made a lot of promises during his first presidential campaign. CBC News’s Paul Hunter checks in on whether he delivered on them. 6:00
He talks, Republicans follow
And had a few votes broken the other way in a few swing states, had he gotten better control over the coronavirus pandemic, he might have won.
Instead, he’ll be gone from the White House in 11 weeks. It’s unclear he’ll ever concede he lost, or ever follow the tradition of extending grace to his successor.
His niece, a psychologist, author and now a critic of him, wrote a book suggesting he has a pathologically delicate ego and lives in terror of not being admired.
He enjoyed the granite-hard support of the conservative base.
It was illustrated by what happened last week when his son, Don Jr., issued a warning to Republicans: if they had any future aspirations to lead the party, they had better start fighting the election result.
The total lack of action from virtually all of the “2024 GOP hopefuls” is pretty amazing. <br><br>They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead. <br><br>Don’t worry <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@realDonaldTrump</a> will fight & they can watch as usual!
Sen. Lindsey Graham went on Fox News and promised to donate $ 500,000 US to the president’s legal fund for fighting the result.
No matter what the president does next, he’ll remain a kingmaker in the Republican Party, and those party members will keep courting his support.
If, however, he chooses to run again in a primary four years from now, he’d probably beat them — barring some unforeseen twist, such as legal troubles in New York, his former home state.
So there are no political obituaries this weekend, not even for an election loser. Because you can’t eulogize what’s not dead.
WATCH | ‘Let’s give each other a chance,’ Biden tells Trump supporters in victory speech:
President-elect Joe Biden spoke directly to Americans who didn’t vote for him during his victory address in Wilmington, Del., saying it’s ‘time to listen to each other again’ and to stop treating opponents like enemies. 1:42
If this was any other election, there would be little doubt that Joe Biden will become the president-elect after the votes in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election are counted.
But after 2016’s surprise victory by Donald Trump, more than 230,000 deaths in the United States caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility that the results could wind up before the courts, this is not any other election.
Nevertheless, Biden remains the favourite to win — and his chances look better than Hillary Clinton’s did four years ago.
According to Sunday’s update of the CBC News Presidential Poll Tracker (check the interactive for the latest updated estimates between now and Tuesday), Biden holds an eight-point lead over Trump among decided voters nationwide.
That lead has held relatively steady ever since Biden officially became the Democratic nominee for president in mid-August, with the margin holding at between seven and 11 points over that time. There has been little evidence that the race has significantly tightened, beyond the slow reduction of Biden’s bump coming out of the first presidential debate at the end of September.
National support does not decide U.S. elections, however. Twice in the last five elections, the winner of the popular vote — Al Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 2016 — did not win the presidency. That’s because elections are decided by the electoral college, which awards the winner of each individual state (with the exception of Nebraska and Maine) a number of votes equal to the state’s representation in Congress.
Biden’s advantage in the electoral college is not as wide as his lead in national polling, but it is still robust. He is ahead by at least five percentage points in enough states to get him more than the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election. He is ahead by smaller margins in enough additional states to turn the result into a rout.
This includes solid leads in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan that were carried by Trump in 2016 by narrow margins. Biden has a smaller edge in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina — states Trump also won four years ago.
This election is not like 2016
In 2016, Clinton was widely viewed as the heavy favourite to win. But just because she didn’t pull it off in that election doesn’t mean that Biden’s good numbers should be seen as equally illusory.
Biden’s lead over Trump is much wider than Clinton’s at this point of the 2016 campaign. His lead is about twice as wide in national polling, and he is ahead in states worth 368 electoral college votes. Clinton was ahead in states worth only 323 electoral college votes, giving her less margin for error.
In fact, the former vice-president’s lead is wide enough to withstand a polling error similar to the one that happened in 2016.
Only in North Carolina, Georgia and Ohio would the same error cost Biden his lead. That would not be enough to give Trump the win — he’d need a bigger swing in his favour in Pennsylvania, Florida and one of Arizona, Minnesota or Wisconsin. And that’s assuming he holds Texas, where the Democrats actually out-performed expectations in 2016.
This is because Biden has a wider lead than Clinton had in nearly every state. The only states in which Trump is doing better than he did four years ago are bedrock Republican states.
Biden is much more popular than Clinton was in 2016, making fewer voters choose between two unpalatable options. And there are far fewer Americans who are undecided or say they will vote for a third-party candidate — about five per cent compared with nearly 13 per cent at this point in 2016.
Biden’s path: Rust Belt, Sun Belt or both?
The path that takes Biden to the White House is a simple one: He wins the states in which the polls show him as the favourite, largely recreating (and potentially expanding upon) Barack Obama’s winning maps in 2008 and 2012. If the results do not go entirely as the polls predict, however, Biden still has some options.
He could win the states in the Rust Belt that have traditionally supported the Democrats by winning back the support of whites, particularly Catholics or those without a college degree. With Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan going Democratic blue again, Biden doesn’t need to win the swing states in the south and southwest. Adding Ohio and Iowa to his column would make his margin safer.
If, however, he is not able to win back the Midwest, he can look to an expanded map in the Sun Belt, carrying Florida and any one of Arizona, Georgia or North Carolina with the help of high turnout among Blacks and Hispanics. If he doesn’t win Florida, he could swap in all three of those other states instead. Flipping Texas, where he trails, and its 38 electoral college votes would make things even easier for him.
In either of these scenarios, Biden ends up with just over 270 electoral college votes. But a combination of them, with perhaps a state or two staying Republican, would give him a solid mandate that could be invulnerable to potential court challenges.
Trump needs things to go perfectly
Trump’s path to victory requires things to go just right for him — and in a much bigger way than they did four years ago.
His win in 2016 was razor-thin. He lost the popular vote by two percentage points and carried Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less than a point. The error in the polls was just enough to turn a Clinton win into a Trump squeaker.
He needs the same thing to happen again. He needs to come out on top in the close races in Ohio and Georgia — states he won by comfortable margins in 2016 — and overturn the two- or three-point deficit he has in Florida and North Carolina. He’s trailed in Arizona for most of the race, but he needs to hold it.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power sees more enthusiasm to vote in this U.S. election than at any other time in her life. 7:50
Then it comes down to Pennsylvania, where he is behind by about 5.5 points. He trailed Clinton by four points there in 2016, and it will take a bigger lift to win it this time. If he doesn’t, he then needs to look to states like Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota, where Biden is ahead by between eight or nine points.
It’s not impossible or even implausible. But the factors that worked to Trump’s favour in 2016 — pollster error, lots of undecideds and an unpopular opponent — are unlikely to be as beneficial to him in 2020. He’ll need all of these factors to not only happen again, but to be masking his potential vote by an even greater degree than before.
That is if every vote counts. The president has spent the last few months disputing that this election would be fair, claiming rampant fraud without proof. He has questioned whether the counting should continue after Tuesday, when a large number of (likely Democratic-leaning) early and absentee ballots will be counted. There’s no ruling out that this election won’t end up before the courts, leaving the outcome to a few judges.
But first things first — election day. And if this were a normal election, Biden’s odds would look very good. We’ll find out soon just how abnormal this election will turn out to be.
What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Your questions help inform our coverage. Email us at Ask@cbc.ca
Two weeks ago, Donald Trump was on track to lose the U.S. presidential election. After a chaotic debate performance and a COVID-19 diagnosis, Trump’s chances of winning the election fair and square have only gotten worse.
He was ahead by at least five points in enough states to secure 275 electoral college votes, slightly more than the 270 votes needed to win the White House. Trump had a lot of ground to make up — more than he did at the same point of the 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton.
At the time, however, the incumbent was in a position where he could narrowly secure re-election if he could win the toss-up states and add Florida and Pennsylvania to his electoral map.
But Trump has not made up any ground since then — and the election is 10 days closer.
Biden now leads by at least five points in states worth a total of 308 electoral college votes, giving him even more margin for error. Add in the states where he leads by between two and five points and Biden appears to be on track to secure over 350 electoral college votes, which would give him a victory about as decisive as Barack Obama’s triumph over John McCain in 2008.
A number of factors likely are driving this bump for Biden.
The fact that Trump came down with COVID-19 — after spending weeks ridiculing Biden for wearing masks and after publicly demonstrating his disdain for basic preventative measures to keep himself and those around him safe — probably acted as a drag on the president’s poll numbers as well. A majority of Americans already disapproved of Trump’s management of the pandemic response and a CNN/SSRS poll found that 63 per cent of Americans took a dim view of how he handled the risk of exposing those around him to the coronavirus.
That poll found a majority of respondents in all racial, gender, age and educational demographics agreed that he had acted irresponsibly — including two-thirds of independents. Even 19 per cent of Republicans thought Trump had acted irresponsibly.
Biden’s electoral map is growing
A number of states that were only leaning toward Biden a couple weeks ago are now looking safer for the Democratic Party. Florida and New Hampshire, deemed “leaning” states on Sept. 29, are now looking like Biden wins. His margin over Trump has increased by about four points in both states since the first debate.
States that were toss-ups, like Arizona and North Carolina, are now leaning Democratic. Biden’s margin has increased by about two points in both of these states.
Trump was narrowly favoured to win Georgia and Iowa on Sept. 29. Now, Biden is projected to be leading by 2.5 points in Iowa and 2.6 points in Georgia.
Texas, leaning Republican two weeks ago, is now a toss-up and a virtual tie between Biden and Trump.
This is a map that gives Biden lots of options. If Biden is able to sweep the Midwest by capturing Iowa and Ohio — in addition to states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that narrowly voted for Trump in 2016 — then he doesn’t need to win states in the South like Florida, Georgia or North Carolina. Biden could watch southwestern states like Arizona and Texas remain in the Republican column and still clear the 270-vote mark needed to win the White House.
Under-performing in the Midwest — as Clinton did in 2016 — would not block his path to victory if Black and Hispanic voters come out in big numbers in Georgia and Arizona.
Having lots of options helps Biden — and those options look a little more solid than they did for Clinton. Biden has widened the map into traditionally Republican states while also putting up better poll numbers among white and older Americans — demographics that could help him win states in the Midwest that Clinton was unable to secure four years ago.
Can Trump turn things around?
There isn’t much time remaining for Trump to turn these negative trend lines around. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do it.
In the CBC’s Presidential Poll Tracker in 2016, Clinton’s peak national lead of 7.5 points came about three weeks before election day. Clinton’s actual margin of victory in the popular vote was 2.1 points when ballots were cast, but thanks to three states Trump won by less than a percentage point, he was able to secure a win in the electoral college.
Trump now needs to see the polls swing by about six to seven points in order to put himself back in the position he was in on election night in 2016. Closing the gap by just five points might not be enough for him to pull off another upset.
That’s a lot to ask, considering how much has changed since the last election. There are fewer voters this time who are either undecided or say they will vote for a third party candidate.
Polls suggest a majority of Americans continue to view Trump unfavourably, while Biden is better liked than Clinton was. That means fewer swing voters making up their minds between two candidates they dislike. Those swing voters broke disproportionately for Trump last time.
This has been a roller coaster election campaign, so it’s possible the polls could swing again and make this race competitive once more.
But it’s just as possible that the trend lines won’t improve for Trump — and that, in another two weeks, his prospects look even bleaker than they do today.