Why Congressional Republicans Are Sticking with Trump, for Now

 

Congressional Republicans are still sticking with Trump because they recognize that as their best chance of remaining in power after the mid-term elections. That chance comes to them because their power now enables them to take advantage of the fact that the upcoming elections and the possibility of Trump’s impeachment are both two-step processes which afford them time and flexibility.

In 47 states (California not included), congressional elections consist of a closed primary election for each party, followed by a general election between the two party winners in November. Trump’s continued hold on the Republican base, no matter how repulsive he behaves, tells incumbent Republicans that the only serious opposition in their primary would arise if they tried to divorce themselves from Trump beforehand. After winning re-nomination though, the game changes considerably for beating the Democrat, and that is what brings the two steps of the impeachment process into play.

Impeachment starts in the House where only a simple majority of the members voting are needed to advance the Articles of Impeachment onto the Senate for trial. The House now has 239 Republican members, 193 Democrats, and 3 vacancies (2 of which will be filled in the primary elections, 1 in the general). It’s safe to say that all 193 House Democrats would vote for impeachment today, the Articles for which they may have already begun to draft. With Republicans holding firm however, no vote will be considered until after the spring primaries.

After those primaries, Republican strategists will carefully consider three things: 1) the totality of what by then has been revealed by Mueller’s and the Senate’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians or Trump’s personal obstruction of justice; 2) what are the polls then indicating about Trump’s support nationally; and 3) the Democrat turn-out for the primary as a measure of their energy in each congressional district.

With those things aggregated in mind, Speaker Ryan then gets to make the decision of whether to allow an impeachment vote. If it looks like there is a significant possibility that the House could turnover, he will call for the vote soon after the primaries are over. Republican House members would then be able to decide for themselves what vote will give them the best chance of beating the Democrat.

218 votes are needed to send the Articles to the Senate, 193 are given by the Democrats, so only 25 Republican votes need switch. The question will be whether at least 25 members feel that for their district a yes vote will get them the swing voters in the general election while not alienating too many Republican voters.

For Republicans in potentially close races, a yes vote will be the mother of all votes; eclipsing all others and any mistakes made within the district. The hard-lineTrump supporters will have no other vote that does not help the Democrat; and to the critical moderate Republicans, they can easily say that they do not think that Trump is “guilty”, and even believe that Trump will not be convicted, but that they do believe that there is enough evidence to warrant trial in the Senate. In addition, left-leaning swing voters might forgive them for not breaking with Trump earlier, and those leaning right might respect their independence from the hard-liners in the party.

If the vote goes through in the summer, McConnell will quickly (and perhaps rightly) announce that trial cannot fairly be done by the November election, especially with 33 members up for election during the process. Trial will take place as soon as possible in the new session, he will say. Of course, Senators up in the fall will need nothing else on which to campaign. Republicans and Democrats alike will relish making Trump’s impeachment, and not themselves, the issue. 67 votes will be needed to convict. The Democrats will be sorely tempted to go ballistic trying to get them; while the Republicans can play the wise, independent, wait-for-the-evidence, detachment card, knowing that it will be almost impossible for the Democrats to come out of the elections with even the 60 votes to necessary to really control the Senate, much less 67. Unless very damaging and convincing evidence is presented at the trial, less than ten Republican senators will vote to impeach.

So my prediction is that events will follow that of President Clinton’s impeachment. Ryan will be pressed into calling for the House vote, but the Senate will not convict. Liberals can only hope that, unlike Clinton, Trump will be weakened by the impeachment process, and the Republicans will have even more losses in the 2020 election.

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