Inside the Beltway: TV off: Biden’s not watching the trial

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America was not particularly interested in then-President Trump‘s first impeachment trial in 2020, according to the TV ratings at the time.

“Within the Senate chamber, lawmakers were doing their best to endure the long hours of the Trump impeachment trial’s first two days, bringing crossword puzzles, falling asleep, and flaunting the no-electronics rule by communicating on smartwatches. At home, Americans haven’t sought these distractions, because the public is just not tuning in,” reported New York magazine on Jan. 23, 2020.

“According to TV ratings for the first two days of the trial, the six news networks covering Trump’s impeachment averaged a little over 11 million viewers combined,” the report said, noting that the audience fell by another 20% on the second day.

Voice of America described trial No. 1 as “something of a dud” at the time.

Fast forward to Trump impeachment trial No. 2.

Sen. Ted Cruz has characterized it as “political theater,” as have Mr. Trump’s lawyers in their 75-page memorandum on the event, Indeed, there is melodrama and posturing involved — which may or may not obscure the actual proceedings. Ratings will soon let us know if the trial is a “dud” or proves to be compelling viewing.

But wait. The trial is apparently not a draw for perhaps the most important audience member of all.

President Biden is not tuning in.

“He’s not a pundit. He’s not going to opine on the back-and-forth arguments, nor is he watching them,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Mr. Biden, she said, is focused on “delivering on his promise to the American people,” and would stay in contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

The president also made it clear to inquisitive reporters who were all wanting to know whether he watching the trial?

“I am not,” Mr. Biden responded, even as the news organizations made their own judgment calls.

“White House distances Biden from Trump impeachment trial,” noted the Voice of America in the aftermath, while the New York Post proclaimed,”Biden refused to comment.”

REPUBLICANS VEXED BY THE GOP

Looks like the Grand Old Party is not quite so grand these days.

Approval ratings for the Republican Party have taken a hit since the November elections and the defeat of then-President Donald Trump, and the greatest drop in opinion has occurred among Republicans themselves, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

The GOP enjoyed a 90% favorability rating among Republicans, according to a previous poll taken after the November elections. That approval has now dropped to 78%. An even third of independents gave the Republican Party a thumbs-up at election time; that finding dropped by a single percentage point to 32%. Among Democrats, 9% approved three months ago; the finding actually rose by 1 percentage point in the current poll.

“With much of the decline in Republican Party favorability coming from Republicans themselves, the GOP faces a crossroads, as it decides whether to continue to be loyal to Trump, his political style and his favored policy positions or break with him. Currently, 60% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they want Trump to continue to lead the party, while 38% would prefer a new leader,” wrote Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones.

“With Trump’s impeachment trial underway, it is notable that past impeachment efforts have tended to harm the image of the party pursuing the changes — Republicans in 1998 and Democrats in 2020. One difference between the current impeachment effort and the two most recent ones, though, is that more Americans want to see Trump convicted than acquitted. In 1998 and 2020, Americans opposed convicting the president,” Mr. Jones said.

FOXIFIED

Fox News ruled prime-time last week, garnering 2.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen, followed by MSNBC with 2.2 million. CNN, which was the leading network during President Biden‘s inauguration, has since dropped to third place with 1.8 million viewers.

Tucker Carlson Tonight” remains the ratings kingpin, drawing a nightly audience of 3.5 million. Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, meanwhile, has signed a new multiyear contract.

“In May 2018, Scott was named Fox News’ first female CEO. In this role, she expanded the Fox News Channel brand into a multi-platform powerhouse now known as Fox News Media,” the network said.

There’s also news about Greg Gutfeld, the smart and funny host of his own Saturday-night talk show. The network has expanded his reach to a full schedule. He’s set to air weeknights at 11 p.m. Eastern — poised to give late night rivals on NBC and CBS some competition.

MAYOR YANG

So who will replace New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio when the time comes? The answer very well may be Andrew Yang, the 46-year old entrepreneur, CNN commentator and former Democratic presidential hopeful.

“Yang commands a double-digit lead in the Democrat primary for mayor, with his closest rivals, Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams and Comptroller Scott Stringer, trailing by more than 10 percentage points each,” says the New York Daily News.

Mr. Yang would get 28% of the total votes, while Mr. Adams is projected to win 17% and Mr. Stringer getting 13%, according to a poll of 842 likely New York City voters conducted Jan. 20-25 by Fontas Advisors and Core Decision Analytics. Five other rivals would garner between 2% and 8% of the vote.

“Those numbers reflect what operatives for campaigns other than Yang’s have been quietly saying for days — that if the election happened tomorrow, Yang would almost certainly win,” the Daily News said, noting that 84% of the voters had heard of Mr. Yang — a percentage that “far exceeds that of his competitors.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 37% of U.S. adults will “definitely not” or “probably not” get the COVID-19 vaccine.

• 60% of this group cite their concern for possible side effects.

• 35% believe other people “need it more than me.”

• 30% don’t know whether the vaccine “will work”; 22% “don’t trust the government.”

• 21% “don’t believe” they need a vaccine; 16% “don’t like vaccines”; 7% say their doctor has not recommended the vaccine.

Source: An AP/NORC poll of 1,055 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 28- Feb. 1. Respondents could give multiple reasons FOR refusal.

• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.

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