I’m guessing no, as Van Drew is something of a special case. Not only was he out early in opposing impeachment, voting against authorizing the Ukraine inquiry and doing Fox News segments to argue against it, but he was an unorthodox Democrat for years as a state legislator in New Jersey. Per Politico, he opposed legalizing gay marriage, hiking the minimum wage, and various forms of gun regulations. (On the other hand, he was a reliable vote for Pelosi this year until impeachment.) It’s a short journey for him from centrist Democrat to centrist Republican, whereas most freshmen Dems from swing districts are apt to be more dogmatic in their beliefs. Backing Trump on impeachment will earn you some praise from Republicans back home, but if you’re pro-choice and anti-gun, it’s not going to earn you the party’s nomination in a primary.
But I don’t know. No doubt White House aides are working the phones to see if any other Dems from solid red districts want to join Trump and Van Drew at a press conference this week to counterprogram the big impeachment vote. Collin Peterson from Minnesota would be an obvious target, as he was the one other Democrat besides Van Drew to oppose authorizing the impeachment inquiry and sounds poised to vote no on impeachment as well. But Peterson is in his mid-70s and has been in Congress almsot 30 years now. Van Drew is nearly a decade younger and is in his first term. Peterson may not want to toss his long legacy as a Democrat by switching parties when he can probably ensure reelection simply by voting not to impeach.
What about Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Ben McAdams of Utah, and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, though? They’re all freshmen, all come from overwhelmingly red districts, and are all very young (45 or younger). Voting no on impeachment might not be enough to save them next fall against a Republican opponent who’s set to ride Trump’s coattails. An opportunistic party switch might be their only hope. Stay tuned.
The irony of Van Drew switching now, by the way, is that it’s technically going to make opposition to impeachment in the House slightly less bipartisan than it would have been. But Trump will happily trade that for a talking point that Pelosi’s and Schiff’s Ukraine saga was so weak and alienating to one member of their caucus that he felt he had no choice but to leave the party in protest.
At a White House meeting on Friday, Mr. Van Drew sought Mr. Trump’s blessing for the move, which could be critical to his ability to avoid a primary challenge next year, and the president urged him to make the jump, according to two Democrats and one Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were intended to be private.
Mr. Van Drew has spoken with senior advisers to Mr. Trump about announcing his switch at an event at the White House either immediately before or just after the House votes on two articles of impeachment, which is expected to happen on Wednesday, according to Republicans and Democrats.
How badly was Van Drew’s vote against authorizing the inquiry playing back home with Democrats in his district? Puh-retty badly:
Those talks came after Mr. Van Drew saw the results of a poll conducted this month that suggested that a vote against impeaching Mr. Trump would damage his chances of winning his Democratic primary. The poll, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, showed that the overwhelming majority of Democratic primary voters — 71 percent — would be less likely to support his re-election if he opposed the charges against Mr. Trump.
The same poll found just 24 percent of Democrats thought he should be reelected versus 58 percent who thought the party should nominate someone else. The backlash was so harsh that three known Van Drew allies who ran in state elections in his district in November all lost, underperforming even in the Democratic-leaning parts of the area. Van Drew reportedly asked local Democratic leaders for a vote of confidence in the form of a letter insisting that they still supported him despite his impeachment skepticism, but many refused to sign. He was obviously a dead duck in his own primary next year, so he made the only logical move he could to save himself.
It makes me wonder, though. When he voted against authorizing the impeachment inquiry in October, was he already planning to jump ship — or did he really think he might be able to convince Democrats in his district to stick with him? Given how delusional his staff has reportedly been this week about the consequences of his defection, it’s possible that he thought he was going to survive a primary.
“Jeff stabbed us in the back, certainly,” said a seething Michael Suleiman, the Atlantic County [Democratic] chairman. “It’s disgusting. It’s a disgrace. Good riddance.”
He added, “Maybe he’ll be the new ambassador to Ukraine.”…
Van Drew in recent days asked party chairs to sign a pledge to support him, and they refused, according to Sulemain. Van Drew’s team also tried to persuade national Democratic staffers detailed to his race to continue to support him despite his switch to the GOP. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staff balked and alerted South Jersey Democratic officials, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
Anyway, the line about Trump making him ambassador to Ukraine is funny but it may be only a half-joke. Van Drew is probably expecting some sort of administration job in return for handing Trump this impeachment-timed PR coup just in case he can’t win a Republican primary in his home district either. And there’s a chance of that. His presser with Trump this week will probably ensure a victory, but various stories about his defection today note that local Republicans have been fighting to defeat Van Drew for years in state elections. They won’t receive him warmly. As noted above, he voted with Pelosi and the Democratic caucus consistently all year, and for the moment he’s still on record as supporting Cory Booker for president. The NRCC, the Republican committee that’ll now be tasked with reelecting Van Drew next fall, was putting out press releases attacking him as recently as a month ago, after he opposed the impeachment inquiry. There’s arguably even a strategic reason for the GOP not to nominate him: If it’s possible for Democratic turnout in south Jersey to get any higher next November than it was destined to be in the name of defeating Trump, giving them an opportunity to punish the traitor Van Drew will do it. Republicans might be better off with a no-name as nominee who can then count on the district’s red-leaning electorate (Trump won it by five points in 2016 and it may be redder now) to carry the day for him.
And then Van Drew will get an ambassadorship somewhere from Trump to thank him for his party-switch. Unless … Trump loses the election, in which case Van Drew will be out of Congress and without a patron in the White House. That would be quite a backfire.
I suppose he could always commit some federal crimes before January 2021 as his reward and then count on Trump to pardon him. A lot of presidential cronies like Roger Stone and Mike Flynn will be getting executive clemency before POTUS leaves office. Van Drew might as well take advantage!