U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. The…
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 21, 2020.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has already made history as only the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. He now hopes to make history again by becoming the first impeached president to win re-election.

The Senate impeachment trial of Trump got under way in earnest Tuesday with a high bar for conviction and removal from office. Two-thirds of the Senate, 67 of the 100 senators, would have to vote to convict Trump in order to force his removal.

That is a highly unlikely prospect given that Republicans hold a 53-to-47 seat majority in the chamber and there has been little indication of Republicans breaking with the president.

The Senate chapter in the impeachment drama has kicked into high gear just as the 2020 presidential campaign enters a critical phase with a crowded field of Democrats vying for the right to take on Trump in November.

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Base politics

In the face of impeachment, Trump likes to remind his base about the election stakes in 2020 as he did at a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last week.

"We are returning power to you, the American people," he said. "With your help, your devotion and your drive, we are going to keep on working, we are going to keep on fighting and we are going to keep on winning, winning, winning!"

Trump supporters at the rally in Wisconsin, like Nancy Freye, need little convincing.

"I think he has done right by the whole country. He is fighting for all of us every day and I don't know how he can even get anything done, but he does," she said. "So good for him, and for us."

The Senate now sits in judgment of Trump in an impeachment trial to hear the case brought by House Democrats alleging that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to help him in his re-election bid.

In this image from video, impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks in favor of an amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., during the impeachment trial against President Trump in the Senate, Jan. 21, 2020.

"President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office," Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, one of the House managers or prosecutors of the impeachment trial, told senators.

Unpredictable trial

Even with the expectation that Trump will ultimately be acquitted in the Senate and remain in office, the impeachment trial presents political variables that could impact the presidential election in November. Could new evidence of wrongdoing emerge during the trial that could damage the president? Or can Senate Republicans craft a speedy process that avoids any additional political landmines and helps to fire up Trump's base for November?

Trump often complains about his impeachment and vows to use it to whip up resentment among his loyal supporters.

That frustration came out during last week's celebration at the White House for the champions of U.S. collegiate football, Louisiana State University, when Trump seemed to reflect on his place in history.

"A lot of presidents. Some good, some not so good. But you have got a good one now, even though they are trying to impeach the son of a bitch, can you believe that?"

Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer, D-NY.,at podium gestures as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Il., left, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., right, listen during a news conference in the Senate media room at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2020, in Washington.

Senate Democrats also see the impeachment trial as a moment in history, including Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. "The weight of history, the eyes of history, you feel it, are upon you."

Low rating

The trial gets under way as Trump's approval rating remains at an average of about 43%, with 53% disapproving. After an initial dip during the early stages of the impeachment process in the House, Trump's ratings rebounded slightly and are now at about where they have been throughout much of his presidency, historically a low average for an incumbent president.

Analysts say how the impeachment trial proceeds and whether Trump suffers any further political damage could impact the president's re-election chances.

"His approval numbers have never been that good but they have been in a narrow band," said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center. "He has strong support from his Republican base but has a hard time adding to that. So he is a little bit below where you would expect a president to be if he were to win re-election."

Even if there are no new revelations in the impeachment trial, the prospect of weeks to come focused on the Democratic allegations that Trump abused his power could have an impact on swing voters this November.

"What could happen is people in the middle who are not part of his base, who are not just consuming the same media that his base consumes, they may drift away," said Ramesh Ponnuru of the American Enterprise Institute.

But even some Democratic analysts are warning that Trump has shown to be politically resilient and, despite his low polls, he does get credit from voters for a strong economy.

"I would not underestimate him," Jim Kessler of Third Way told VOA. "He has always been an unpopular president. He was an unpopular candidate but he is a very good counter-puncher."

Political impact

The impeachment trial could also have an impact on the Democratic primary battle, with the first votes in Iowa looming on Feb. 3.

Four senators running for the Democratic nomination will find themselves largely confined to Washington for the next several weeks to attend the trial — including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet.

Georgetown University expert Hans Noel said Trump's impeachment and the resulting Senate trial could be a factor for many voters in November.

"It is going to be about whether or not Trump was exonerated or whether or not the crimes and other misdeeds that are associated with him are actually bad enough that voters should vote him out," Noel said.

Trump's fate in the Senate will likely be decided within weeks. A final judgment from U.S. voters will come in November.

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Explore the timeline of the impeachment inquiry.