Vulnerable Democrats are watching in horror as GOP impeachment attacks deluge their districts back home. And they want a much stronger counteroffensive from their own party and its allies…
GOP-aligned outside groups have spent roughly $8 million on TV spots this cycle in battleground districts, such as Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s central New York seat. The vast majority of those ads specifically hammer Democrats over impeachment.
Meanwhile, swing-district Democrats are receiving little reinforcement from their own party or even other liberal coalitions. Democratic and pro-impeachment groups have spent about $2.7 million in TV ads, according to an analysis of spending by the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics. And more than $600,000 of that total went to ads targeting Republican incumbents, not helping vulnerable Democratic members.
“It’s like someone taped our arms to our side and punched us in the face,” groused one Democrat to Politico, which notes that the ad gap has been raised with Pelosi at caucus meetings. To make matters worse, to the extent that Dems and liberal outside groups are spending on ads, not all of that spending is going towards messaging on impeachment. One lefty group recently launched a multimillion-dollar campaign aimed at drug pricing, for instance — which, frankly, might suit Pelosi just fine. She spent the better part of this year shooing House Dems away from impeachment over Russiagate, fearing that it might inspire an electoral backlash or at least distract the party from the health-care messaging that helped it win the midterms. As it happens, impeachment ranked last in a list of 11 government priorities among independents in a recent Politico poll. To Pelosi, that might be reason enough to cede the field to Republicans on impeachment ads. Let the GOP drill down on that while Democrats quietly shift back to kitchen-table issues and see who benefits next fall.
Anyway, I can’t tell whether Republicans really do believe that Democrats might get “cold feet” to the point where they’d decline to impeach Trump after all this or if that’s just a talking point they’re pushing to make the eventual inevitable impeachment vote appear that much more outlandish and surprising to the public. I think it’s the latter, but Trump himself told “Fox & Friends” on Friday that he doesn’t expect to be impeached and Senate GOPers sound like they think there’s at least a chance that Pelosi will whiff:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says senior White House officials think there’s a better than 50-50 shot Pelosi decides to avoid a Senate trial…
“There’s a growing school of thought that rather give Senate Republicans or the White House an opportunity on a level playing field on a large stage, Democrats would be better off just saying, ‘we’re going to look out for the country, not drag the country through this, we’ve made our point,’ and have a vote of censure-ship,’” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), one of Trump’s loyal allies in the upper chamber.
In fact, as noted up top, successfully impeaching Trump but doing so with fewer votes than the 231 which Dems had to open the impeachment inquiry would itself be sufficiently embarrassing that I wonder if the magic number in Pelosi’s mind isn’t really 218 in this case. It might be … 231. In order to “prove” that the public hearings were successful and that this process wasn’t a political mistake, she may demand that every member of her caucus who voted to proceed initially also vote to impeach. That’ll pain her, knowing that some purple-district Democrats will pay a price with their constituents, but this isn’t any ol’ vote where a bare majority is enough and certain moderates can be allowed to oppose the party in the interest of protecting themselves. Democrats have to affirm to the public that this political gamble was justified, even if they secretly believe it wasn’t. That means 231, or thereabouts.
Plus, look at it this way: A Democrat who voted yes to authorize the impeachment inquiry may already be doomed to pay a price no matter how he or she votes ultimately on impeachment. If you’re a swing voter in a certain congressional district and you believe this process has been a waste of time or a cynical attempt to delegitimize Trump based on little hard evidence, you’re going to blame your Democratic representative for voting to open the inquiry even if he or she gets cold feet in the end and votes against impeachment. *Maybe* that would be different if Dems ended up failing to impeach and that representative’s “no” vote was part of a majority that defeated the effort. But it won’t be; as I say, Democrats really are going to do this even if they don’t do it with 231. Which means everyone who voted yes on opening the inquiry will be partly to blame for the final vote, if only by having enabled it.
In which case, Dems with cold feet might as well vote to impeach anyway. If they’re destined to be blamed no matter what, they might as well make sure their base is happy with them, at least.
Here’s Kellyanne Conway this morning further pushing the possibility that Dems won’t follow through. Untrue, but it’s never a bad idea to stoke perceptions that the opposition is divided and cowering.