One of the biggest political stories of the weekend has been about New Jersey freshman Democrat Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s impending (alleged) jump to the GOP, which is a PR disaster for House Dems. Reps. Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff sat down with George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning to discuss impeachment proceedings and what to do about vulnerable House Dems. When George Stephanopoulos confronted Nadler about Van Drew’s defection, Nadler pooh-poohed it:
Well, first of all, what he’s reacting to is public polling that shows he can’t get renominated. His electorate in his district is 24 percent to renominate him and 60 percent to nominate somebody else.
But more to that point, this is not political. We should not be looking at those things. This is the defense of our democracy. Do we stay a democratic republic or do we turn into a tyranny?
In other words, Nadler says, “Meh. He’s a loser anyway.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) called BS and said Van Drew’s rejection shows that the Dems are on the wrong side of history here.
Chairman Nadler told us to consult our consciences before voting on impeachment articles, then seemingly dismisses Jeff Van Drew for doing just that.
When your own party rejects your sham impeachment, you’re probably on the wrong side of history. https://t.co/tuzf8beztQ
— Rep. Doug Collins (@RepDougCollins) December 15, 2019
Adam Schiff, also appearing on the show, backed up the “this is a vote of conscience” talking point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Schiff, I know that Speaker Pelosi said she’s not whipping this vote, members are free to vote their conscience. We know that the Republicans are targeting 31 Democrats from Trump districts. Are you confident you have the majority to impeach the president?
SCHIFF: I am confident. I’m not whipping this either. I don’t think anyone is. This is a real vote of conscience.
Is Van Drew’s renomination really in jeopardy? Politico reported Saturday that Van Drew currently has no primary challenger, though “Brigid Harrison, a professor at Montclair State University, had been publicly mulling a run, citing Van Drew’s opposition to impeachment,” but in an article written after Nadler’s Sunday show appearance claimed that Van Drew was facing an unnamed primary challenger.
Two of Van Drew’s staffers have made moves over the weekend indicating whether they’ll stick with Van Drew or with the Democrats. Javier Gamboa, Van Drew’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, quit after hearing that his boss would be switching parties. Gamboa is a “veteran Democratic Capitol Hill staffer and political operative” with no particular loyalty to Van Drew or his district. The New Jersey Globe reports that Allison Murphy, Van Drew’s longtime Chief of Staff, resigned her position as Democratic State Committeewoman from Cape May County, NJ, perhaps a sign that she will follow her boss to the GOP.
It’s worth noting that Van Drew’s seat was a solid Republican seat for decades, and that he flipped the seat by beating a GOP candidate who had been disavowed by the party for racially insensitive comments.
Nadler’s dismissal of Van Dam’s defection is just a “let’s not give this air and hope it dies” ploy. It’s a really big deal, as Bonchie wrote Saturday:
Now, I’m some will try to claim Van Drew was a closet Republican or that this isn’t that big of a deal, but that’s nonsense. Having a party member switch sides in the middle of an impeachment fight is a big stinking deal. The Democrats have botched this from the beginning and it looks more and more likely that Trump will end up with the last laugh.
President Trump met with Van Drew on Friday, and on Saturday night tweeted in support of him.
Wow, that would be big. Always heard Jeff is very smart! https://t.co/7yDPU4N3wd
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019
There are currently three GOP primary candidates in Van Drew’s district, and it remains to be seen how that issue would be resolved.
UPDATE 4:50 PM Pacific, 12/15/2019:
Five members of Van Drew’s staff resigned Sunday, citing his upcoming switch to the Republican party.
Five of Jeff Van Drew’s staff members announced their resignation Sunday after the congressman privately indicated he would switch parties, saying they are “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the decision pic.twitter.com/TnlbUakEp1
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 16, 2019