Rep. Jeff Van Drew was 'almost obsessively anti-Trump' before deciding to join the GOP

Rep. Jeff Van Drew hasn’t officially switched parties yet but according to sources he’s telling colleagues that he’s going to do it. The ostensible reason for Van Drew’s disenchantment with the Democratic Party is that he is opposed to the push for impeachment of President Trump. That made him very unpopular with Democrats including many of his own staffers, six of whom resigned this week. Today the Daily Beast reports that Van Drew claimed he was anti-Trump prior to a few weeks ago. He told colleagues he was against impeachment because he was convinced it would help Trump win reelection:

Behind closed doors, Van Drew has told colleagues that the president was stupid and mentally unstable—and that his opposition to impeachment stemmed from his belief that impeaching Trump would ensure his re-election, according to two Democrats present at closed-door discussions with the congressman.

A third verified Van Drew had disparaged the president in harsh terms, calling him “crazy.”

“He was almost obsessively anti-Trump,” said one of the Democrats. “His only justification, and this was adamant, was that he thinks that [impeachment] will help Trump win.”

The story goes on to say that Van Drew hasn’t even confirmed that he is switching parties yet, with the implication that he might still reverse course at the last moment. I don’t think that’s likely at this point. If he backs down now he’ll be anathema to both parties and that will be the end of his career. But he comes from a relatively red district in New Jersey that could re-elect him if he gets support from the GOP.

As for the claims that Van Drew was “obsessively anti-Trump” there are several ways to look at this. The first one that occurs to me is that Democrats angry over the potential party switch are trying to poison Van Drew as he walks out the door. The governor of New Jersey and Jerry Nadler have both criticized Van Drew as putting politics above principle so there’s definitely some bad blood there. I’m not saying the sources necessarily made up a story about him but maybe they took a few stray comments and exaggerated in order to ruin his prospects of being accepted by the GOP. It seems like the kind of revenge politics Democrats like to play and the Daily Beast seems like the kind of outlet they would go to if they wanted to spread such a story.

It’s also possible that the description of Van Drew is largely accurate. However, given the party’s push for impeachment and Van Drew’s resistance, he must have been under tremendous pressure behind close doors to justify himself. Maybe he just framed his unease with impeachment as anti-Trump because that was the best way to avoid becoming a total pariah within the party. What else could he say to avoid being ostracized?

Or maybe this guy really doesn’t have many principles beyond getting reelected. That also seems possible. CNN’s Manu Raju spoke to Van Drew today outside his office and suggested this switch was purely political. Van Drew denied it but didn’t really explain his reasoning. According to Van Drew, his voters voted for him not a party label. I have a hard time getting a read on this guy. It seems like he’s made up his mind but if so what is he waiting for to make an announcement?