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Keller @ Large: As Biden impeachment inquiry moves forward, will it help or hurt GOP?

Keller @ Large: As Biden impeachment inquiry moves forward, will it help or hurt GOP?
Keller @ Large: As Biden impeachment inquiry moves forward, will it help or hurt GOP? 02:40

BOSTON - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed a House committee to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. It's just the latest deployment of a once-rare procedure that's become common in our hyper-partisan political culture.

When President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, it had been 130 years since the last time it got that far. (Richard Nixon resigned before he was actually impeached.)

But now, threats of impeachment are common, and while no president has ever been convicted and removed from office, what was once a last resort has become just another political weapon.

"They know that there is no basis for this, but they think that maybe they can cause a little chaos," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). "Maybe they can cause a little trouble. Maybe they can advance the interest of Donald Trump getting elected."

Most Republicans felt the same way about the two impeachments of Trump.

But as Speaker McCarthy fishes for the so-far elusive proof linking the president with his son Hunter's alleged influence peddling, notice how reluctant harsh Biden critics like GOP Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas are to wade in. "No comment at this time," he said when asked about the inquiry today.
Why? Decades of polling show impeachment is popular only among staunch partisans, at least until the evidence becomes overwhelming.

Republicans hope the impeachment inquiry helps them get bank records that would incriminate the president. But as South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace notes, "The problem is you do the inquiry; how do you avoid doing an actual impeachment? And, you know, that puts a lot of seats up at risk, particularly for Republicans who won Biden districts, and you know, that is the web that we will weave if we move forward on it."

It's hard to know for sure if impleachment helps or hurts the party that prosecutes it. Jimmy Carter capitalized on the Watergate scandal when he won in 1976, and Al Gore paid a price in 2000 for Clinton's failings. But his pandemic mismanagement surely cost Trump in 2020 more than impeachment did.

You can whip up your hardcore partisans with impeachment talk, but in a closely-divided country, you can also alienate swing voters who don't like your priorities.

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