Laser focus or broad spectrum? The Ukraine-Gate allegations might have some Republicans distancing themselves from Donald Trump, but The Hill reports that the shift to an impeachment inquiry has begun putting pressure on Democratic unity as well. A split has started to emerge between moderates who want to stay focused on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and progressives who want to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the president:
Senate Democrats representing red states are worried the House impeachment process may spin out of control and destroy any chance their party might have of winning back the majority next year.
These Democrats hope the House keeps its impeachment focus on the Ukraine controversy, and that Democrats act relatively quickly. If they do not, the red-state Democrats warn Trump could turn the tables on them.
“It’s really incumbent on the House to really be laser-focused. The president is a master of pivoting and deflecting and I think it’s really important to stay focused,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who narrowly won re-election in a Republican-leaning state in 2018.
Tester’s not alone in his concerns. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton spoke with Joe Manchin, another deep-red state that will no doubt stick with Trump unless Democrats produce a smoking gun, and Manchin’s every bit as skeptical about trying to make it about everything. He’s also skeptical that his colleagues are listening, and for good reason:
One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the dynamics within the Democratic caucus said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told his colleagues that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to keep the scope of the impeachment inquiry as narrow as possible.
The senator, who favors a broader scope, said that “people are worried” about potential political fallout within the Democratic caucus.
“The stakes go up for both sides at this point,” the source added.
They do indeed, in part because there’s little confidence at this point that Ukraine-Gate will be sufficient for impeachment, even among House Democrats. First off, a couple of dozen or more have to face voters in districts that went for Trump in 2016 and might do so again. If it begins to look like an impeachment in search of any justification or rationalization, they won’t be able to defend it. Plus, they have the added issue of Hunter Biden’s influence-peddling, which as Allahpundit wrote earlier turns out to be a bigger issue than Democrats might have first thought.
That leaves Pelosi stuck between a rock and a hard place. She declared “alea iacta est” when she crossed the impeachment Rubicon last week without seeing the Zelensky transcript or the underlying complaint. Neither lived up to their initial billing, although neither can be entirely discounted yet either. The complaint turned out to be much more about Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine than Trump’s phone call per se. Even if Giuliani’s acts pan out to be illegal — which is unlikely — the illegality would be Giuliani’s. It might leave Trump with a lot of political baggage, but that would leave Pelosi with no clear path to impeachment unless she adopts the kitchen-sink approach that would sink her moderates in the next election.
Having Tester and Manchin speak out publicly against that strategy shows another risk. Democrats need twenty Senate Republicans to flip to remove Trump, and that won’t happen on the basis of what Democrats have on any track. It sounds as though they might lose Manchin and Tester, and almost certainly Alabama’s Doug Jones, if they go broad-spectrum with an inch-deep argument. They might lose them anyway, but at any rate removal is not in the cards. And if that’s the case, why would Pelosi’s moderates put their necks on the line in Trump-friendly districts for a dead-end stunt?
That’s the tension that will start to split the Democratic caucuses on Capitol Hill, especially if this is all they end up bringing to an impeachment vote. That’s still a very large if, of course.