GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows

GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows
© Getty Images

Republican lawmakers are seeking to project confidence after Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE, painting the move as a political ploy that will help turn out its base in 2020. 

The display of bravado comes after Democrats have seized on allegations from a whistleblower that Trump sought to persuade Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on Sanders-Warren feud: 'Don't play to the pundits, play to voters' MORE, the front-runner in the Democratic nomination.

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans admit the allegations point to a potentially devastating picture for Trump at a time when he was headed to a tough reelection and at a time when Republicans are facing long odds of retaking the House and are defending more seats than Democrats are in the Senate.

But GOP lawmakers also believe they can use the Democratic impeachment push to rally Republican voters to their side — much like how Democrats defended former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump to add Dershowitz, Ken Starr to impeachment defense team MORE when he was impeached and later acquitted by the Senate. 

Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallPompeo tells McConnell he's not running for Senate Meat industry is trying to stifle plant-based food innovation Improving maternal health with data and care coordination MORE (R-Kan.), who is running for an open Senate seat in Kansas, said impeachment will be seen as “very detrimental for the Democrats.”  

“I really think that actually just solidifies the president's victory. The people back home ... I've never seen them so fired up, and they're going to get out and vote and support this president. Big uptick and fundraising for the president, and for us as well,” he told The Hill. 

“Kansans want us to focus on solving problems. They're sick of this impeachment business. This is another witch hunt. This is the sequel to the Russian hoax. So I think it's going to motivate people, even independents and moderates are just fed up with all this infighting.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the House GOP’s campaign arm, has ramped up its attacks on freshman Democrats who flipped seats during the midterms, sending dozens of emails this week, accusing them of  sparking "a constitutional crisis" and of "rabid" partisanship.

“New Jersey Democrats jumped on the crazy train with their Democrat colleagues obsessed with throwing our country into a constitutional crisis and it will cost them their seats in 2020," an email from the NRCC targeting New Jersey Democratic freshmen Reps. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHow the 31 Democrats in Trump districts voted on impeachment Democrats set to take historic step of impeaching Trump Nearly all Democrats expected to back articles of impeachment MORE, Andy Kim and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiNJ lawmaker flips endorsement to Biden after Booker drops out House votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap New Jersey Democrats slam Van Drew: 'He doesn't have a chance' MORE said.

Republicans are also looking to portray Democrats as prioritizing impeachment over legislating on issues that matter to Americans such as health care.

“It seems like they're starting at impeachment and trying to backfill in some sort of reason after the fact, and it's going to cost them the majority in next November,” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack told The Hill. 

“I mean, we're just going to draw attention to the fact that all of these freshman Democrats ... they ran really as moderate Republicans, and now they're joining their impeachment obsessed base, which is going to tank their majority next November,” he added.

Pack also claimed Republicans had seen a surge in campaign contributions ever since House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders MORE (D-Calif.) announced her support for the start of an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.

Democrats, however, believe public opinion is already turning to their side — and that they will prevail in 2020 as long as they maintain a careful and measured approach to impeachment.

House Democrats have largely united behind impeachment, with 223 members now backing starting an inquiry.

Three recent polls showed a rise in support for impeachment after the allegations over Trump's call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, including a 10-point jump in the NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll and 12-point jump in the latest Hill-Harris X survey.

Democrats argue that Trump’s call with Zelensky will be seen by the American public as clear evidence that Trump tried to pressure his foreign counterpart into launching an investigation into Biden, as detailed in a memo released by the White House this week.

“This is a very simple story that Americans get,” Michael Gordon, a Democratic strategist and principal at Group Gordon, told The Hill. “Americans understand what the president did wrong and agree what he did was wrong.” 

“With that said, the Democrats need to be judicious and thoughtful as they approach it, so that way they can bring more of the country along with them.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

However, impeachment is seen as holding perils for both parties.

Democrats are mindful they could be seen as overplaying their hand and worry impeachment could overwhelm issues such as improving health care that helped them win the House in 2018 and that they were hoping to use again in 2020.

It was a message that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s head Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Ocasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm MORE (D-Ill.)  sought to convey.

“As the Intelligence Committee investigates this sad chapter in our nation’s history, I call on my colleagues in their critical roles to keep their focus on the important work at hand to bring down the cost of health care, rebuild America’s infrastructure and reinvigorate the American dream for families in every corner of our country,” Bustos said. 

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE reflected a similar sentiment in a statement. 

“Democrats are fighting day in and day out to expand access to health care, raise wages, help the American worker, and uphold the rule of law,” Perez said. 

But Republicans acknowledge they are on the defensive, especially as House Democrats step up their investigation of the allegations.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony MORE for documents relating to the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine, indicating Democrats are wasting no time diving into the formal impeachment inquiry.

“I think it's too early to tell — I think anybody who tells you they know how it's going to play out for House races is a way ahead of themselves,” Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversKoch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing plans Financial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more MORE (R-Ohio), who previously served as the chairman of the NRCC, told The Hill. 

"I think we all need to take a deep breath and see what happens here," he added. “It would be easy to see the Democrats overplaying their hand, and they already seem to be moving that direction, but I'm not ready to say that's definitely how it plays out yet.”