Are Democrats all going to hold hands and jump together? Besides Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson, I mean. But those two were opposed all along, having voted against authorizing the impeachment inquiry in the first place. The question this weekend was how many *more* Dems would join them in bailing out before the big vote. Surely there’ll be a few from red districts, if only in the name of self-preservation.
Or will there?
There are still 44 House Dems left on the board as of 6:15 p.m. ET according to the NYT’s updated whip count. But look more closely at who the remaining undecideds are and you’ll see that most of them are sure votes to impeach. Steny Hoyer is among them. So is Cheri Bustos, who comes from a red district but happens to be the chair of the DCCC. There’s 0.0 percent of her opposing impeachment. Anthony Brindisi just got some pork for his district from Pelosi in the new spending bill, so he’ll likely show his thanks by voting yes. (Quid pro quo!) In fact, at least one Dem from a red district who’s still listed by the Times as undecided as I write this announced his support for impeachment within the past hour. That’d be Andy Kim, who comes from the district that neighbors Van Drew’s in New Jersey and which happens to tilt even redder than Van Drew’s does:
— J. Miles Coleman (@JMilesColeman) December 16, 2019
The great majority of “undecideds” on the Times’s page comes from districts that were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Only one person among that group, Tulsi Gabbard, has any sort of incentive to vote no. Which means, if I have my numbers right, that between the Dems who have already announced they’ll vote to impeach and the Dems who will assuredly end up announcing that they’ll vote to impeach because they have no electoral reason not to, Pelosi already has the 218 she needs to impeach the president of the United States. It’s a done deal.
The question now is purely whether they’ll lose anyone except Van Drew and Peterson.
Another possible vote-switcher showed her cards this afternoon. That was Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. She’s sticking with Pelosi:
EXCLUSIVE: @RepSpanberger says she will vote YES on the Articles of Impeachment. She says the evidence is clear. Hear her reasons and @VP Mike Pence’s reaction at 5 & 6 on @NBC12. pic.twitter.com/uidkKgr58T
— Heather Sullivan (@HeatherNBC12) December 16, 2019
Spanberger knocked off tea-party favorite Dave Brat in Virginia’s Seventh District last fall, winning by less than two points in an area that leans R+6. She’s in the same boat Elissa Slotkin is in by backing impeachment today. With Spanberger sticking with Team Impeach, the number of Dems who might plausibly flip is down to only three or four, if that. The big question mark remains Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, who represents an R+10 district, but Horn’s now under added pressure after Joe Cunningham and Ben McAdams announced that they’ll vote to impeach. Before that, Horn might have been given a pass by lefties for voting no on grounds that she needs to protect herself next year. Now that Cunningham and McAdams have tempted fate by supporting Trump’s ouster, though, Horn will look gutless if she fails to follow suit. They’re in every bit as much electoral danger as she is but they bit the bullet. What’s her excuse if she doesn’t?
Increasingly I’m thinking that the only other Dem who might flip is … Tulsi, whose home district in Hawaii is a breezy D+19. She’s retiring so she wouldn’t be risking anything immediately by voting no, but her long-term future as a Democratic politician (inasmuch as one exists for her) would be completely over. They’d never forgive her for a betrayal like this when she’s already under suspicion for being a closet right-wing nationalist, the sort of person who’s more comfortable on Tucker Carlson’s show than she is on Pod Save America. But maybe that’s the point — if Gabbard has decided that her political future lies in being a right-friendly independent or some sort of highly unorthodox Republican (or a right-wing media figure, of course) then the obvious play is to vote no. If you’re going to rebrand, go big. This would be as big as it gets.
It might even help her, sort of, in her Democratic presidential campaign. She recently moved to New Hampshire and is all-in on the primary there, expecting to benefit from crossover votes from independents and Republicans. Wouldn’t surprise me to see her overperform on Election Day thanks to those groups, especially if she panders to them by opposing impeachment. Then she could drop out of the race and declare some sort of moral victory, that she stood for independence, etc. I’m intrigued to see which way she goes here.
While we wait for more Dems to show their cards, a little food for thought: Did Van Drew’s decision to bolt the party put extra pressure on Pelosi to make sure other wary Democrats voted yes on impeachment? Trump’s going to hold a presser tomorrow or Wednesday with Van Drew and present him as the ultimate proof of how badly the Dems’ impeachment push backfired. Not only did they fail to win any House Republicans over, not only will the president be acquitted in the Senate (possibly on a bipartisan vote), but they’ve actually shrunk their caucus by doing this. Maybe Pelosi looked at that and thought the only way to properly counterprogram it is to show how united Democrats are behind impeachment. That means no more defectors besides Van Drew and Peterson (and Tulsi, perhaps, who’s a loose cannon). I wonder if Cunningham and McAdams were planning/hoping to vote no today until they got a call this weekend after the Van Drew news to tell them “nope.”