Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House, has long recognised that if the American public is not in favour of impeachment, there will be no pressure on Senate Republicans to vote for the removal of Donald Trump.
The US president will be acquitted in the Senate and he and his followers will feel vindicated. As a result, Mr Trump and the Republicans might get the lift they need for re-election.
Ms Pelosi has not bought into the idea that the public will warm to impeachment as the proceedings unfold.
I have generally been sympathetic to her position, in large part because Democrats have been unable to communicate in concise and vivid terms the "high crimes and misdemeanours" at issue.
Mr Trump, through a fog of lies and obstruction, has made the Russia investigation unintelligible for most Americans. (For this reason, I favour emphasis on egregious corruption, which is easier to explain and prove.)
It is politically untenable at this point to use the Mueller Report as the basis for impeachment.
However, with the allegations (and the virtual public confession) that Mr Trump went to a foreign power, Ukraine, to dig up dirt on former vice-president Joe Biden - his most likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election - and may even have extorted Ukraine using American taxpayer money, the calculus may change … dramatically so.
Unlike the Mueller investigation, the collusion at issue is discrete, simple and, in all likelihood, easy to prove.
Witnesses in addition to the whistleblower may include former officials who have no reason to abide by Trump's bogus executive immunity claims.
I suspect that, if issued with subpoenas, people like former director of national intelligence Daniel Coats and his deputy Sue Gordon, as well as former national security adviser John Bolton, would testify honestly.
From factually specific news reports (eg, confirming Mr Trump asked the Ukrainian president eight times to find dirt on Biden), we know the proof and the witnesses are out there. Moreover, Mr Trump's henchman Rudy Giuliani, acting in the capacity of Trump's fixer, is protected by no privilege. (For one thing, he's already talked openly about his conduct.)
Mr Trump doesn't seem to dispute the facts. Rather, he is trying to prevent concrete, glaring evidence from emerging. He apparently thinks it's perfectly fine to lean on a foreign power to help him win an election.
Given all that, impeachment may look very different. A single article of impeachment based on an incontrovertible abuse of power would make the Democrats' job much easier.
The difficulty that at-risk Republicans face in explaining to voters why they countenance such conduct begins to outweigh any downside for Democrats in pursuing impeachment, even if the eventual outcome is acquittal in the Senate.
Imagine Senate races in 2020 for Republicans Susan Collins in Maine; Cory Gardner in Colorado; Thom Tillis in North Carolina; Martha McSally in Arizona and others outside of deep-red America.
So, Senator Collins, you think it is perfectly fine to go to a foreign power to help sway our election outcome? Senator Tillis, if your opponent goes to, say, China to dig up dirt on you, is that fair game.
The argument for Democrats - namely that Republicans are spineless lackeys who have violated their oaths of office - is far easier to maintain than the Republicans' assertion that it's nuts to remove a president who goes to a foreign power to help re-elect him.
I do not expect enough Republicans will vote to remove Mr Trump under any circumstances. Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse, of Nebraska and others have proved time and again that their fear of Mr Trump and his base outweighs any assault on our democracy, no matter how devastating.
These are hollow little men who find it impossible to put country above partisan loyalty and ambition.
They will come up with whatever justification is necessary to avoid crossing Mr Trump, even at the expense of allowing the most egregious "high crime and misdemeanour" in our history to go unpunished.
However, the political downside for Democrats will be small, and, it is always possible the media might actually inform the public, the public might actually grasp the severity of the conduct and the Republicans on the ballot might actually pay a steep price for betraying our democracy.
The House needs to move swiftly, with singular purpose, on this.
If so, doing the right thing may coincide with doing the politically smart thing. (© 2019, The Washington Post)