51 Votes

10 mins read
US Capitol Building
Scrumshus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s talk strategy.

We know that the chances of Donald Trump being removed from the Presidency by the Senate is slim.

But while we are unlikely to get a clear victory with 67 votes, that doesn’t mean that we can’t fight for a moral victory with 51 votes along the way. 

Yes, 51 votes. If a majority of the Senate votes to remove Donald Trump – or at least votes for a fair trial – it will be the next best thing, showing that only the rules of the Republican-controlled Senate could save Donald Trump from his deserved fate.

With Democrats only holding 47 seats, getting to 51 votes will be difficult. Mitch McConnell will do everything in his power to keep the number of Republican defections to 0, let alone 4. And Chuck Schumer will do the same to keep his Democratic caucus united.

So who are the Senators most likely to be “up for grabs” and most vulernable to public opinion? I’ve broken them down into 4 groups:

2018 Red State Democrats, Vulnerable 2020 Republicans, Retiring Republicans, and The Wildcards.

2018 Red State Democrats

  • Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona)
  • Jon Tester (Montana)
  • Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
  • Sherrod Brown (Ohio)

These Democratic Senators all won in red states in 2018…and, perhaps more importantly, all have 5 years left on their terms. That’s a looong time before they would have to face any repercussions. They won’t face voters again until 2024, if they ever face voters again at all.

Sherrod Brown is the mostly likely of this group to support the process and removal. An unapologetic Democratic populist, he votes his conscience…and he is consistently rewarded for doing so even in his increasingly conservative state.

Kirsten Sinema is notably moderate, but she has to know that her state is rapidly trending Democratic. A vote to help Trump could linger in the memories of Arizona Democrats while a vote to uphold the process and remove Donald Trump could stave off a 2024 Democratic primary.

I don’t think that Jon Tester will hesitate to vote for removal. After Trump unsuccessfully targeted Tester in 2018 I’m sure there’s a big part of Tester that cannot wait to cast that vote. And who is to say that this might not be Tester’s last term?

The same goes for Joe Manchin, who will be 77 in 2024. He clearly has never loved being in the Senate. I suspect it will be his last term. But, while I think he could support a fair trial, he also strikes me as the Democrat most likely to vote to let Trump stay since his state voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. 

In the end, I think all four will vote appropriately. But don’t leave anything to chance. If any of these Democrats are your Senator, get on the phone to their offices now.

Vulnerable 2020 Republicans

  • Cory Gardner (Colorado)
  • Susan Collins (Maine)
  • Martha McSally (Arizona)
  • Joni Ernst (Iowa)
  • Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
  • Kelly Loeffler & David Perdue (Georgia)

The timing of impeachment does not easily allow for any of these Senators up for re-election in 2020 to support impeachment. Primaries could easily remain a threat. And even if they didn’t, they would run the risk of inviting Trump’s wrath. He would not hesitate to throw them under the bus, even if it meant hurting Republican chances to take over the Senate.  

Of this batch, I think that Susan Collins might be the most likely to support a fair trial and/or removal. She has her own ‘brand’ in Maine and would be best positioned to withstand any Trump blowback. But in the end, much like with Kavanaugh, I don’t expect her to pull the trigger. She will likely voice her ‘concern’ over Trump’s actions but stop short of casting the right votes.

I have little hope for the rest of them. Cory Gardner knows he’s going to lose in 2020 and he likely wants to retain his ability to join GOP-friendly lobbies. Thom Tillis has made his gamble, tethering himself to Donald Trump in hopes that he can squeak out a victory. Martha McSally has been less fulsome in her praise of Trump in her rapidly-blueing state, but Trump remains the only game in town. Joni Ernst has showed zero backbone when it comes to standing up to Donald Trump, so I wouldn’t expect her to start now. Newly-appointed Kelly Loeffler has too much to prove to Trump-loving Republicans after her controversial selection. And David Perdue won’t want to be out-Trumped by his new Junior Senator, either.

But pressure still matters. Each and every one of these Senators must be forced to sweat over their decision. Their constituents cannot make it easy for them. Hold their feet to the fire, and remind them of the consequences if they vote to abet the most corrupt President in American history.

Retiring Republicans

  • Pat Roberts (Kansas)
  • Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)
  • Mike Enzi (Wyoming)
  • Richard Burr (North Carolina in 2022)

Will some do the right thing so that their names are properly recorded in history as they head for the exits? Or will they toe the party line, perhaps in hopes of obtaining lucrative lobbying gigs at Republican-friendly firms?

The one to keep an eye on is Lamar Alexander. More statesman than bomb-thrower, if any one of these men were going to surprise us, I’d bet on him.

But if any of these Senators represent you, give them a call. Play on their sense of patriotism and remind them of what their place will be in history.

It might not work on a vote for removal, but it just might work for a fair trial.

The Wildcards

  • Mitt Romney (R-Utah)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
  • Doug Jones (D-Alabama)

One thing I’m convinced of: Few Senators – Democrat or Republican – want to see Donald Trump humiliated more than Mitt Romney. Every signal he has sent leans towards him believing that Donald Trump is guilty. And Mitt – like the 2018 Red State Democratic Senators – also has the benefit of having 5 years left on his term. Further, Mitt – like Susan Collins – also has his own “brand” in Utah that could insulate him from any Donald Trump blowback.

Lisa Murkowski is like Susan Collins…but her “troubled disappointment” has actually resulted in her casting big votes against Trump in the past (health care, Kavanaugh). My guess is that she loathes him. And while she caucuses with Republicans, she won her 2010 re-election as an Independent… and likely won’t have trouble doing so again in Alaska the next time she runs.  

Doug Jones is the Cory Gardner of the Democratic Party in 2020: he will likely lose his re-election. We are going to do everything we can to get him the majority of the vote in his race. We will scratch and claw for every last vote. But it’s an uphill climb, and Jones knows it. Thus far, Doug Jones has shown a propensity to “do the right thing” in his Senate career, casting votes that likely don’t go over well with the broader Alabama electorate. My guess the former Federal Prosecutor will do the same here and cast votes to do the right thing.

If any of these three Senators represent your state, the time to give them a call is now.

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