The Editors' Blog

Talking impeachment down at the Fox and Hound

Thursday night in Huntersville, several candidates for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination spoke at a forum sponsored by a group called Lake Norman Conservatives.

Some spoke about impeaching President Obama.

Here is what Charlotte Observer reporter Jim Morrill wrote in his story:

Obama was a frequent target.

[Heather] Grant, a Wilkesboro nurse, acknowledged that there aren’t enough votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate to convict the president if he were impeached by the House.

“By God in 2014 I’m hoping we’re going to have enough,” she said. Republicans must win six seats to take the Senate.

[The Rev. Mark] Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, said he’s surprised the House hasn’t begun impeachment proceedings.

“When we get a majority in the United States Senate the president will be held in check or he will be impeached,” Harris said.

According to the Associated Press, another candidate, Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary, also talked about impeachment of the president for overreaching.

In some acreage of the Republican grassroots, there is always talk about the need to remove President Obama through impeachment for alleged high crimes and misdemeanors such as a purported Benghazi coverup, the IRS nonprofit scandal, the Fast and Furious scandal, Obamacare, immigration policies, his birth certificate, you name it.

You can read stories about this here, here and here.

The president’s State of the Union address has pumped more life into the impeachment talk because the president said he was going to do some things with or without Congress.

Thursday night, the Republican candidates were talking to 120 people at a restaurant called the Fox and Hound.

But the audience was much wider, because stories get posted and shared around the Internet, particularly through social media, and perhaps more important, they will be recycled by opposition researchers for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat.

Let’s say that Rev. Harris or Dr. Brannon wins the Republican nomination. Right now, it looks like Thom Tillis, speaker of the NC House, has an inside track to win it, but in a low-turnout primary anything’s possible.

And let’s say that by primary day, Rev. Harris and Dr. Brannon have been going around North Carolina all winter and spring saying that they think impeaching President Obama is an idea whose time has come.

While that may fire up the Republican base, it will also fire up the Democratic base. The Democratic base may not be passionate about Hagan, but they will be passionate about turning out if they think a Hagan defeat equals impeachment. And that’s how the TV ads by Democratic PACs would present it. By the time they were done, a lot of their voters would be convinced impeachment proceedings start next January.

Nearly 2.2 million North Carolinians voted for President Obama in 2012. And the president’s recent trip here shows that he can still draw an enthusiastic crowd in the South. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory came out to greet him on the tarmac at RDU and showed up for his speech at N.C. State, for goodness sakes.

In reality, I think that the appetite among Congressional Republicans to mount a real impeachment effort against President Obama is somewhere between zero and 15 percent.

There was a hearing in December in the House Judiciary Committee titled, “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” Coverage of it noted the reluctance of Republicans to use the “I-word.” This may have been the kind of hearing that is sometimes held by Republicans to get their more conservative constituents and Rush Limbaugh off their backs.

For Democratic and Independent voters, however, Republican candidates for House and Senate seats going around the country talking impeachment in the primary season is disconcerting. It’s not dog whistle rhetoric, which is understood only by Republicans but not by Democrats. Democrats can understand the word “impeachment” just fine, even if the talk at the Fox and Hounds of the Republican primary trail may be intended just for the GOP base.