Democrats enter the Thanksgiving recess having to regroup, as viewership declined during the second week of impeachment testimony against President Donald Trump and multiple polls revealed declines in support among independents for removing the president from office.
Some Democratic campaign and media marketing experts worry that the recess will turn into a cooling-off period, while others insist the recess will help the impeachment effort.
“Normally, I’d say any break would hurt, by generating a fall-off in support among ‘persuadables,’ the small number of people who are not locked-in one way or the other,” Spencer Critchley told The Epoch Times on Nov. 24. “TV advertisers know that the moment a commercial goes off the air, its influence starts to drop.”
Critchley is managing partner of the California-based Boots Road Group marketing agency and a former communications adviser to President Barack Obama’s campaigns.
His worries are balanced, however, with optimism that the recess will see “the mother of all Thanksgiving political debates, happening at tables across the country and keeping the issue very much alive.”
Critchley also hopes that, as with TV advertising, “sometimes a break helps boost the impact of the message when it returns to the air, so we may well see that happen after Thanksgiving with impeachment.”
Another veteran Democratic communications strategist thinks the recess could help Democrats determine what, if anything, they need to change in their tactics.
“No, the break doesn’t hurt impeachments efforts. To the contrary, millions of Americans just watched and processed hours of compelling testimony, all making the argument that the President broke the law and violated the Constitution,” Christy Setzer told The Epoch Times.
Setzer is president of Washington-based New Heights Communications and a former strategist for Vice President Al Gore and multiple Democratic constituency groups, including the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
“Now, we’re in Stage Two: Congress goes home and talks to their constituents about what they just heard. For those in frontline districts, Members will want to know how voters are taking in this information. Are they fired up? Or tuning it out?”
Setzer said what Democrats hearing during the recess week “will inform the next stage of the impeachment process, whether the strategy needs to be recalibrated or amped up.”
Similarly, Max Burns, a New York-based Democratic strategist, sees in the recess an opportunity because “anytime you’re pursuing something as momentous as an impeachment, it’s important to go back to your constituents and make the case directly.”
That’s because “Americans heard a lot over the past two weeks and a recess gives legislators a much-needed opportunity to field questions and break down the case against Trump into something more accessible to regular people,” he said.
The numbers facing Democrats are indeed daunting. An Emerson national poll found support among independent voters reversed from October to November, going from 48 percent for and 39 percent against impeachment to 49 percent opposed and 34 percent in favor.
And a Politico/Morning Consult poll found 42 percent approving of how Democrats are handling the impeachment effort, compared to 46 percent who disapproved.
A particularly worrisome result for Democrats came in the Siena College Research Institute survey of deep-blue New York, where 59 percent of independents interviewed oppose impeachment, compared to 37 percent who support it. More startling, 51 percent of the independents said impeachment was “a partisan attack on President Trump.”
The numbers even prompted Vanity Fair’s Ken Stern to lead a deep-dive analysis of multiple surveys by declaring on Nov. 21 that “data exclusive to Vanity Fair shows impeachment could be a losing issue for Democrats hoping to recruit independents in 2020.”
Stern then quoted an unnamed political science expert who told him there are “lots of people who don’t like Trump who are still prepared to vote for him.”
Zach Friend, another California-based Democratic strategist, told The Epoch Times he believes “nothing at this point will change the trajectory of the impeachment inquiry. Public opinion, especially partisan opinion, has been remarkably stable, so neither time nor new information will likely change the outcome.”
For their part, Republican strategists interviewed by The Epoch Times see the recess as a significant blow to the Democrats’ impeachment campaign.
“I think it hurts, as it will stop any momentum they think they built up and it will be hard to keep this story in the news over the holiday,” said Matt Mackowiak, president of the Potomac Strategy Group.
“Initially, they said they wanted to be done by Thanksgiving. It is now not clear if they can be done by Christmas,” Mackowiak added.
Brian Darling, president of Liberty Government Affairs in the nation’s capital, pointed to the fact Democrats didn’t forgo the recess as an indicator of weakness in their effort.
“If House Democrats really thought President Donald J. Trump was a threat to the Constitution, they would not be away for a Thanksgiving recess. The lack of urgency is evident and undercuts many of the hysterical arguments made by House Democrats,” Darling said.
Darling, a former adviser to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), however, cautioned Republicans against overconfidence.
“I think more Republicans need to be realistic and concede the call wasn’t ‘perfect,’ while making the case that the president’s offense did not rise even close to a removable ‘high crime or misdemeanor,’ he said.
“Also, there needs to be more discussion about the unusual procedures used by the House Intelligence Committee, including secret hearings,” Darling said.
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist told The Epoch Times that “there is a sense that the momentum of ‘impeachment’ is slowing. Polling shows drop in support for impeachment among independents, the group you want and need.
“Taking a week off after underwhelming testimony may allow this to further cool … Democrats can do impeachment OR do their work as legislators.”
Norquist expects House Democrats to push impeachment to a vote in the House, followed by a trial in the Senate, “because the left wing of the Democrat Party will not allow anything else.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at [email protected]