By John L. Micek
For the Pittsburgh Current
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may want to hasten President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to a hasty conclusion, but voters in a key 2020 battleground state have other ideas.
Nearly two-thirds of Keystone State respondents (62 percent) to a survey by progressive-leaning Public Policy Polling say they want the Senate to conduct a “full trial, including hearing all of the evidence and calling witnesses to testify on both sides,” compared to 35 percent who say the majority-GOP chamber should quickly consider the case, and then dismiss the two impeachment articles brought by the majority-Democrat U.S. House.
More than half of respondents to the telephone poll said they want Pennsylvania’s Republican United States senator, Pat Toomey, of Lehigh County, to keep an open mind, compared to 42 percent who say they want Toomey to vote against removing Trump from office.
Trump, who has cast the impeachment investigation as a “hoax,” carried Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes in 2016. Republicans and Democrats are fighting hard to carry Pennsylvania, a state rich in electoral college votes, in 2020.
The touch-tone poll of 754 voters, conducted from Jan. 14 to Jan. 15, is the first barometer of public opinion of the impeachment drama now consuming Capitol Hill. The poll was commissioned by Defend American Democracy, a progressive veterans group that has called on Congress to “put country over politics.”
Three-quarters of voters (76 percent) said they’d heard “a lot” about the impeachment, and narrow majorities believe that Trump is guilty of the two charges brought against him: Abuse of power (51-48 percent) and obstruction of Congress (52-45 percent).
The survey finds low approvals for both Trump (43-53 percent, approve) and Toomey (25-51, approve) heading into the thick of primary season. Toomey, who was re-elected in 2016, will not face home-state voters again until 2022. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) say they want Toomey to support hearing from witnesses.
In a Jan. 16 statement, Toomey said he wanted the Senate to “conduct a fair trial consistent with past precedent. We will allow House managers to make their case, the President’s lawyers to make their defense, and senators to pose questions. At the conclusion of these presentations, the Senate can then decide what, if any, further steps are necessary.”
In an email, Beth Melena, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Democrats, said that if Toomey doesn’t get behind calling witnesses, “he is proving that he has no intention of keeping the oath he took to ‘do impartial justice, according to the Constitution and laws.’
Forty-eight percent of the poll’s respondents identified as Democrat, compared to 38 percent who said they were Republicans. Fourteen percent of respondents said they were independents.