Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, waits to participate in a mock swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, as the 116th Congress begins. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Republicans are looking at a very hard choice ahead of them in 2020.
Do they stick with President Donald Trump, who still has a firm hold on his base but sees moderate voters slipping away? Or do they run against him or even convict in an impeachment trial?
A year ago – even two months ago- the notion would be absurd. But a string of bad decisions and the Democrats’ slow, methodical rollout of the impeachment inquiry are changing the numbers ahead of not just Trump’s presidential re-election, but the re-election of several key incumbents in the Senate.
Currently, the Republicans have a 53-47 edge over Democrats in the Senate. We know that Doug Jones in Alabama is in trouble, so the Republicans could pick up a seat there. However, 23 Republican seats are up for re-election, nearly 2-to-1 over the number Democrats have in 2020. Among those Republicans are several in swing states: Susan Collins, Corey Gardner, Martha McSally, and Thom Tillis. As well as those four, you see Democrats attempting to make a play against Joni Ernst of Iowa and David Perdue of Georgia.
However, with all of that said, this isn’t just to say that the Senate is in play in terms of Senator re-elections. It’s also in play in the impeachment process.
That 53-47 lead is a slim one. You don’t need that many Republicans to break away from the party vote the other way to put Trump in trouble. Several Republicans fit the bill there.
Leading the charge is Senator Mitt Romney, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s for a while, but has ramped up his attacks in the past couple of weeks. Susan Collins is just as likely to side with the Democrats as she is Republicans, as is Lisa Murkowski.
On the fence, you have senators like Ben Sasse, Joni Ernst, Lamar Alexander, and Martha McSally. Sasse has been a longtime critic of Trump’s, though his tone has softened a bit. McSally came out hard against impeachment, but she has recently been quieter on the subject of Trump’s Ukrainian phone call. Ernst is in a similar position as McSally, while Alexander is set to retire from his seat.
You also have guys like Mike Lee and other solid conservatives who may see this as a chance to try to right the ship. It’s a very outside chance that these guys would join in, but if the Democrats get enough evidence together, it can definitely turn the tables.
Of course, the Senate could come out 53-47 in Trump’s favor if the impeachment makes it to trial, but his actions in Syria have alienated a lot of loyal Republicans. His decision to host the G-7 summit at Dural, before he canceled the idea, was also frowned upon by many in the Senate, including those in his own party.
Right now is the time that Trump should be working closely with members of his party, and ease their concerns. But he has this unfortunate habit of lashing out through social media when he’s feeling cornered or upset, and that tends to not help his situation.
This is by no means a doomsday forecast, but it is a warning. Republicans – not just Trump – need to take a lot of things into account if it becomes a matter of getting re-elected. If Trump goes down, are these Republicans willing to go down with him? And, on the flip side of that, if they choose to abandon Trump and he beats impeachment and whoever his 2020 opponent is, how well will he and the Senators who broke from him work together past that point?
It is an incredibly difficult position many of these Republicans find themselves in. I don’t envy the choices they are going to have to make.