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Impeachment is historic and dramatic — but it hasn't changed anything

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Trump Holds \"Merry Christmas\" Campaign Rally In Michigan
President Donald Trump leaves his Merry Christmas Rally at the Kellogg Arena on Dec. 18, 2019 in Battle Creek, Mich.Scott Olson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Nothing. Ever. Changes.

That’s the main takeaway from our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on public opinion the Trump Era during the impeachment fight — which was released just hours before the Democrat-controlled House impeached President Trump for abusing his powers and obstructing Congress.

Americans remain split, 48 percent to 48 percent, on whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office — virtually unchanged from October’s NBC/WSJ poll.

A slightly majority (53 percent) approves of the House impeachment inquiry — identical to where it was in October.

Forty-four percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance — down one point.

Democrats enjoy a 7-point advantage among registered voters on congressional preference — exactly where it was in October, as well as in Oct. 2018.

And asked about 2020, just 34 percent say they’re certain to vote for Trump in the general election, versus 48 percent who say they’re certain to vote against him — again, unchanged from October.

All of it underscores how absolutely locked in American attitudes are about Trump and his presidency.

So weeks of public hearings on Trump’s impeachment didn’t change many minds. Neither did the Mueller investigation. Nor the Comey firing of 2017.

“It’s remarkable in the era of Trump that even a story of this magnitude is unable to shift the fulcrum of American politics,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, the GOP half of the NBC/WSJ poll, on the impeachment saga so far.

Maybe all of the “impeached” newspaper headlines change minds. Or maybe there’s a new development from the Senate trial that moves numbers.

But don’t bet on it.

No, Trump hasn’t gotten stronger during the impeachment fight

Let’s also not pretend that President Trump has emerged stronger from this impeachment story.

His job rating is at 44 percent — danger zone for any incumbent.

And a whopping 48 percent of the electorate says they’re certain to vote against him in 2020 — when just 37 percent said the same of Barack Obama in the Dec. 2011 NBC/WSJ poll.

While Trump is poised to survive a Senate trial to remove him from office, his overall political situation is much bleaker when it comes to 2020.

Is Pelosi really going to delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate?

Here’s the impeachment drama after last night’s House votes.

“The House will delay sending the articles of impeachment it approved to the Senate until rules are established for the trial of President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday night,” per NBC News.

This appears to be all about getting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who has said he won’t be impartial during a Senate trial) to negotiate with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

But is Pelosi really going to give the GOP the upper hand on procedure?

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted this morning: “If House Dems refuse to send Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for trial it would be a breathtaking violation of the Constitution, an act of political cowardice, and fundamentally unfair to President @realdonaldTrump.”

2020 Vision: Back to where we started

As for the Democratic presidential race, with the sixth round of debates taking place tonight from Los Angeles, the national NBC/WSJ poll also shows very little has changed.

In fact, we appear to be back to where we all started from earlier this spring — with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders on top.

Here are our numbers:

  • Biden 28 percent (+1 since October)
  • Sanders 21 percent (+2)
  • Warren 18 percent (-5)
  • Buttigieg 9 percent (+3)
  • Klobuchar 5 percent (unchanged)
  • Bloomberg 4 percent (N/A)
  • Yang 3 percent (unchanged)
  • Gabbard 2 percent (unchanged)
  • Booker 2 percent (unchanged)

CNN’s national poll, also out this morning, has similar numbers.

Indeed, the 2020 Dem candidates have campaigned for nearly an entire year, and the only major thing that has changed in their horserace from the beginning of the year has been Pete Buttigieg’s emergence.

That’s it — with maybe Amy Klobuchar having a pulse, too.

On the campaign trail today

Seven Democratic presidential candidates participate at the PBS/Politico debate from Los Angeles beginning at 8:00 pm ET. The seven – Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer and Yang… Cory Booker, who didn’t qualify for the debate, stumps in Iowa… Tulsi Gabbard, after her “present” votes on impeachment, is in New Hampshire… And Michael Bloomberg campaigns in Tennessee.

Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

Tulsi Gabbard was the sole “present” vote on both articles of impeachment, and Gabbard won’t be on the stage at tonight’s debate to field questions or pushback on that decision. NBC’s Julia Jester flags Gabbard’s statement on the decision: “After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no. I am standing in the center and have decided to vote Present. I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 52 percent

52 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic primary voters who say they have reservations about Michael Bloomberg or are very uncomfortable with his candidacy, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Compare that to the shares of Democratic primary voters who say the same about his rivals:

  • Warren: 26 percent reservations/very uncomfortable
  • Klobuchar: 27 percent
  • Buttigieg: 31 percent
  • Sanders: 32 percent
  • Yang: 33 percent
  • Biden: 35 percent
  • Bloomberg: 52 percent

By the way, Bloomberg sat down for an interview with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle. Here’s an excerpt:

Ruhle: Joe Biden doesn’t have the experience?

Bloomberg: He’s never been a manager of an organization. He’s never run a school system. His wife actually is an educator and has good experience there.

But no, I don’t think any of them — you know, the presidency shouldn’t be a training job. You get in there; you’ve got to hit the ground running. We cannot wait, after what’s happened to our country and all the things that you described, of people not being comfortable, not being optimistic about the future.

Talking policy with Benjy

Buried under impeachment, a bipartisan fight over surprise medical bills is taking place in Congress that could have implications for a future Democratic president trying to pass a public option or Medicare for All, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin observes.

Last week, Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce committee and the top Republican on the Senate health committee reached a deal, backed by the White House, to protect patients from unexpected out-of-network bills at hospitals. But just as things seemed poised to advance, the House Ways and Means Committee, which is working on its own bipartisan bill, pumped the brakes. A spokeswoman for the committee’s Democratic majority told NBC News they wanted more time to mark up legislation and address some technical concerns.

That has advocates for the legislation nervous. The bill has attracted tens of millions of dollars in ads opposing it backed by private equity investors in health care. Depending how its structured, it could force some hospitals, doctors, and specialists to charge less for care. Some advocates fear several more months of delay could give industry lobbyists more time to tilt legislation in their favor kill it entirely, especially as the presidential campaign make negotiations tougher.

“Timing is everything,” Shawn Gremminger, senior director of federal relations at Families USA told NBC News. “When you miss an opportunity it's not always easy to just reopen that same door."

The implications go beyond this one bill, though. 2020 Democrats are running on health plans like Medicare for All or a public option that would pressure doctors, specialists, and hospitals to reduce prices, which are far higher than in other countries. If they can’t get surprise bills passed with bipartisan support over industry opposition, that does not augur well for larger reforms later.

The Lid: Half n’ half

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we delved into the impeachment results from our NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss

Here’s our analysis of those new NBC/WSJ Democratic horserace numbers.

Here’s what Vladimir Putin had to say about the impeachment vote.

Trump ally Mark Meadows isn’t running for reelection (and may leave office early to work for Trump.)

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the individual mandate in the ACA is unconstitutional — but it didn’t say whether the entire law is invalid.

Trump Agenda: And I did it my way

Jonathan Allen’s take: “Trump pays a historic price for doing business his way.”

And here’s Dan Balz’s look at yesterday’s vote: “[T]he people’s House became the nation in miniature, a people torn over the conduct of a president who has defied political odds and broken the rules of politics — and who is braced for more to come.”

And the AP’s analysis: “Impeachment forever changes Trump’s legacy”

2020: Gabbard’s Christmas “present”

Yes, Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on impeachment.

POLITICO delves deep into the Joe Biden brain trust.

The New York Times asks Asian-Americans about finding their role in the political sphere.