Gary Pearce

Gary Pearce

Contrary to what you might read and hear, not all Americans have made up their minds about impeaching President Donald Trump. A poll of battleground states — including North Carolina — suggests that a decisive slice of voters is keeping an open mind until they hear the evidence.

The public hearings on impeachment, which begin this week, could be crucial in shaping their views.

Here’s why. By 52-44 percent, voters in the six states oppose impeaching and removing Trump from office. But, also by 52-44, voters support the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.

That means about 8 percent of voters aren’t convinced Trump did anything wrong, but they want to hear the facts. Then they’ll make up their minds.

That 8 percent could decide the presidential election one year from now. Because those same six states could decide the Electoral College. And the same poll found that voters in those states are closely divided on whether to vote for Trump or a Democrat.

The poll was done by The New York Times and Siena College. It interviewed registered voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — six states viewed as key to 2020.

In those states, the poll found, the 2020 race is basically a jump ball. Trump trails Joe Biden by an average of two points, is tied with Bernie Sanders and leads Elizabeth Warren by two points. In North Carolina, Trump leads Biden by two and both Warren and Sanders by three.

On impeachment, the results in North Carolina were slightly better for Trump than in the other states. Voters here oppose impeachment and removal from office by 53-43. But they support the House inquiry by 50-45. That’s seven or eight percent who could go either way on impeachment.

One question in the poll touches on a key issue: Were President Trump’s comments and actions related to Ukraine and investigating Joe Biden “typical of what politicians do” or “much worse than that of typical politicians?”

By a narrow 47-43 margin, voters in the six states combined said “typical of politicians.” That’s key to Trump’s defense.

His campaign will go farther. It will try to make Trump’s combative style a plus.

Note this line from the 30-second TV ad the Trump campaign ran during the seventh game of the World Series — at a cost of $250,000:

“He’s no Mr. Nice Guy, but sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.”

Democrats will call Trump rude, crude and racist. Trump will counter: “Americans elected me to shake things up, and that’s what I’m doing.”

As the impeachment hearings begin, the swing voters will be watching and asking: Is Trump just shaking things up, or is he abusing the presidency? Is it politics as usual, or is it out of bounds?

If Democrats make their case, they could mortally wound Trump. If they fail, he could be on the way to reelection.

This is a high-stakes game of power poker. Televised live.

Gary Pearce is a former political consultant. He was an adviser to Gov. Jim Hunt, 1976-84 and 1992-2000.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.