New Jersey Democrats slam Van Drew: 'He doesn't have a chance'

New Jersey Democrats slam Van Drew: 'He doesn't have a chance'
© Greg Nash

New Jersey Democrats are teeing off on their soon-to-be former Democratic colleague, Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, who is expected to jump to the GOP to protest the impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE.

Democratic critics are accusing the freshman lawmaker of having no loyalty in abandoning the party, while predicting he has no future in the House, since he's alienated voters on both sides of the aisle.

"This is an awful thing to do," said Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellDemocrats express concerns about IRS readiness for next year's filing season Obama hits trail to help Biden, protect legacy Trump's COVID-19 case draws new attention to handling of pandemic MORE (D-N.J.) on Tuesday. "You make a commitment. That's doesn't mean you've got to vote every way that the majority or the leadership asks you to vote. Certainly it means you owe something to the organization who put you where you are."

Asked if Van Drew is welcome on the Democratic side of the House chamber, Pascrell paused only briefly.

"Not by me," he said, adding that Van Drew had not reached out to warn him of the pending party switch.

"He never talked to any of us, and I think there's some obligation. Commitments mean something," Pascrell said. "You know what they'd do with a guy like that around my neighborhood in Patterson?"

Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiPhil Murphy says no coronavirus outbreaks in New Jersey linked to Trump fundraiser Marjorie Taylor Greene spars with GOP lawmaker over QAnon, antifa Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones MORE (D-N.J.) piled on, saying it's "odd" that Van Drew, who served the region in the statehouse for 16 years, would flip parties over just a single issue.

"For someone who's represented that area for years and years ... to think that he could not persuade people who know him so well to respect the choice that he plans to make [on] impeachment is mystifying to me," Malinowski said Tuesday.

"I don't see too many people here having trouble making what they believe is a principled choice, one way or the other," he added. "Maybe he fits in better with a group of people who, in my view, placed loyalty to a political leader ofter the country's best interest."

Van Drew, the most vocal Democratic opponent of impeachment, had huddled with Trump at the White House on Friday, and a day later the news leaked that he was abandoning the Democratic Party in the coming days.

The backlash was rapid and highly public.

Six Van Drew aides resigned in protest. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.), the 2020 presidential hopeful whom Van Drew had endorsed, urged his supporters to donate money to Van Drew's eventual opponents. And Democrats of all stripes went on cable news to hammer the decision as shortsighted and politically expedient.

The Democrats' campaign arm quickly released an internal poll from Van Drew's swing district, revealing that the heavy pressure on the South Jersey lawmaker was not coming from conservatives opposed to impeaching Trump, but from liberals up in arms that Van Drew was siding with Republicans against impeachment.

The numbers suggested Van Drew might lose in a Democratic primary. But Democrats are now predicting that, since he's voted overwhelmingly with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (D-Calif.) on policy issues all year, he likely can't win a Republican primary, either.

"When you look at the poll numbers, when you look at that election, he felt he had to find another home, because otherwise he's finished," Pascrell said. "I think the majority opinion would say he doesn't have a chance to win regardless who runs against him in the primary."

"He doesn't have a chance to win as a Democrat or a Republican," Pascrell added.

Van Drew has criticized the impeachment effort from the very start, arguing that the evidence surrounding Trump's dealings with Ukraine did not merit his removal. He also warned that Democrats would face a backlash at the polls in 2020 if the GOP-controlled Senate acquitted Trump on the two impeachment articles, as it's expected to do.

“All of this, at the end of the day, is not going to matter. Because … it’s going to go to the Senate, and at the end of the day the Senate’s going to say he’s not guilty,” Van Drew told reporters last week. “Then he is going to speak about that — a lot.”

Trump has applauded Van Drew, calling him a "smart" politician.

Democratic critics have a different view, saying Trump will use Van Drew as the political equivalent of a dishrag, employing him as a prop in the impeachment debate and discarding him directly thereafter.

"I don't think Trump sees beyond his nose," Malinowski said. "Right now it's impeachment, and that's why he's happy to use Jeff to make his point. But unless Jeff suddenly goes from voting with Democrats 80-some percent of the time to zero percent of the time, he's not going to be very useful beyond this moment."

"I'm not the one who said everything Trump touches dies," Malinowski continued. "But there's some truth to it. And I think as a short-term calculation it's a very — not a very wise one."

Van Drew has not made a public statement since the news leaked of his expected defection to the GOP. On Tuesday morning, the House voted on a rule underlying the enormous government funding bill headed to the floor later in the day. Van Drew did not appear at the vote.