By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  — Some called it the State of the Union address. But Tuesday night was another episode of Donald Trump’s White House reality show, coming just hours before the U.S. Senate acquitted him in his impeachment trial.

He was greeted by Republican Nixonian chants of “four more years” in a Chamber that voted to impeach him less than two months ago. He refused to shake Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand. Pelosi dropped the normal “distinct pleasure and high honor” part of her greeting. After the speech that claimed the historic great economy (which is growing at a modest 2.3%) and portrayed himself as a defender of pre-existing health conditions (his administration is doing the exact opposite in the courts), the speaker tore up his speech. She described it as a “manifesto of mistruths.”

But this was a classic made-for-TV moment. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We have totally rejected the downsizing,” President Trump said in a speech during which he honored Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom and reunited a military family. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back.”

“He has had existential political threats facing him from the moment he was elected until tomorrow,” Texas-based Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak told Reuters, referring to the impending acquittal vote on impeachment charges.

But last time Trump dodged such an existential threat (on July 24, 2019 after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress), he sowed the seeds for his impeachment the very next day with his "perfect call" to Ukraine President Zelensky.

The unintended consequences of impeachment came to light earlier Tuesday. Gallup put his job approval at an apex for this president, at 49% with 94% of Republicans on board and 42% of independents. Those approval numbers were still 30% below President Clinton’s impeachment polling windfall 21 years ago, but at a high for President Trump. The Democratic nomination process was going through its Iowa meltdown, with Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders essentially tied with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “It’s a fiasco that just plays right into us,” the president told television network TV anchors during an off-the-record lunch earlier in the day.

“We will never let socialism destroy American health care!” Trump said at one point in his address, a shot over Sen. Sanders’ (and Democratic voters’) bows.

Trump’s efforts to smear former vice president Joe Biden via the Ukraine scandal were bearing fruit in Iowa, paid for by the cost of impeachment. Biden finished in an anemic fourth place and is just about out of funds in what he called a "gut punch." So if Biden falls away and Democrats end up nominating Sanders, it will have been worth the taint in the cunning mind of this president.

From an Indiana perspective, the White House laid out its markers: Since President Trump’s election, 75,000 jobs have been created in Indiana, including 11,000 manufacturing jobs. Some 13,000 Hoosiers have been lifted out of poverty. The 156 opportunity zones in Indiana are attracting investment to previously forgotten communities, including in Allen, Lake, and Marion counties. Entrepreneurship is booming, as new business applications in Indiana are up 23% since the election. As more Hoosiers are working, unemployment insurance claims are down 18% since the election. At $55,000, real median household income in Indiana is up 3% under President Trump.

While 40% in a recent New York Times poll revealed surging optimism, the Real Clear Politics right/wrong track polling composite, only 39.3% see the nation on the right track, while 55.5% perceive a wrong track.

As for impeachment, Trump dodged Senate witnesses last week, setting up Thursday’s acquittal and he didn’t mention it Tuesday night. But in doing so, the key vote from Sen. Lamar Alexander was accompanied by his terming the July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky “inappropriate.” He added in a late night tweet: “The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did.”

On Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Sen Mitt Romney made history when he became the first member of an impeached president’s party to vote to convict. “There’s no question that the president asked a foreign power to investigate his political foe,” Romney said. “That he did so for a political purpose, and that he pressured Ukraine to get them to do help or to lead in this effort. My own view is that there’s not much I can think of that would be a more egregious assault on our Constitution than trying to corrupt an election to maintain power. And that’s what the president did.”

Acquittal is a far cry from "total exoneration." 

U.S. Sen. Todd Young explained his vote for acquittal by saying, “After hearing all counsel arguments and reviewing all evidence in the record, including 17 witnesses, 192 witness video clips, and 28,578 pages of evidence, procedural rules, and Constitutional concerns, I will vote to acquit the president. I have worked to remain impartial and openminded throughout this trial, but it must be acknowledged that a political fever permeated this process from the beginning, dating back not just to the start of the House of Representatives’ impeachment efforts, but all the way back to November 2016.”

Young echoed a 1999 complaint by then Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (and current HPI contributor) after President Clinton’s acquittal, that the process had been “rushed.” Or as Young put it, “The House’s rushed impeachment process denied the president due process, and House managers failed to meet their heavy burden of proof to remove a president from office and from future ballots. This week, Americans begin the presidential election process. It’s time for the Senate to resume its legislative work on behalf of the American people, and to allow the voters to register their opinions about this administration in the coming election. The Founding Fathers, who warned of the political nature of impeachment, also provided us a means to address dissatisfaction with our presidents, frequent elections.”

With the restraint of impeachment and internal “guard rails” gone, President Trump has been emboldened. His use of the once-bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday where he excoriated his tormentors over his "perfect call," and his acquittal victory lap in the East Room are leading indicators of where his mind is on what Republican senators like Indiana's Mike Braun have called an "instructive" sequence in Trump's volatile presidency.

Where that will lead us is anyone’s guess. 

Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana and the CrossroadsReport.com. Find him on Twitter at @hwypol.