Impeachment will make some Senate Republicans squirm

There is speculation whether impeachment will hurt some House Democrats from marginal districts; no doubt, a few will squirm.

If, as seems likely, the House votes to impeach Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE, and it goes to the Senate for a trial, a handful of Republicans there — who may hold the balance in next year's elections — may squirm even more.

These include Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days MORE (R-Maine), Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 MORE (R-Colo.), Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Planned Parenthood targets GOP senators in seven-figure ad campaign MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Democratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him MORE (R Iowa) and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage North Carolina congressman says he won't seek reelection after redistricting Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 MORE (R-N.C.). All are either slight favorites or in toss-up races against likely formidable opponents.

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Voters, according to politicians and polls, care more about health care, the economy, immigration and education than impeachment. But a pitched congressional battle over removing Trump will affect marginal races, probably energizing voters on both sides.

Any possible Senate votes wouldn't occur for at least ten weeks. Ten weeks ago, little was known about the scandal, in which the president pressured the Ukrainians to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE while holding up much-needed military assistance.

Senate Republicans have to be worried what else may come out in the weeks and months ahead; court tests may be settled that would require turning over more information — and perhaps even the testimony of administration witnesses in the face of White House stonewalling. Static analysis is perilous in this saga.

Polls show a pronounced partisan split on impeachment: Democrats overwhelmingly for; Republicans overwhelmingly against — with independents divided.

That's why a vote might cause some angst for maybe 15 percent of the new House Democrats who won Republican-held seats last year and several non-freshmen Democrats.

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But any on the fence have a believable argument: Impeachment is like an indictment, and plenty of abuse of power and obstruction of justice particulars have emerged.

That won't avail in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53 to 47 Republican majority and it takes a two-thirds vote to convict.

If this scenario plays out, it will pressure a few Democratic Senators — but it will mainly affect those handful of Republicans in battleground states, where the public is divided. Three of those states — North Carolina, Iowa and Arizona — voted for Trump, who likely would be on the ballot next year. Democrats say all these states will be in play next year.

If more comes out and Senate Republicans look for a compromise like censure instead of impeachment, that's likely to be opposed by one prominent party leader: Donald J. Trump.

Senior Senate Republicans, Like Tennessee's Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation MORE, who's retiring, and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE of Ohio, not up until 2022, may offer an easier cop-out. They say the president's actions were "inappropriate" and "wrong," but trying to shake down a foreign country to go after your political opponent isn't an impeachable offense. In the House, Portman voted to impeach Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached Impeachment can't wait Turley: Democrats offering passion over proof in Trump impeachment MORE for lying about sex. Alexander wasn't in Congress yet.

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These office holders know Trump owns the party and his base will punish any Republican who goes off the reservation. A recent illustration: Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Statesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race MORE (R- Utah) has been one of the more outspoken GOP critics of Trump's behavior; in 2012, Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum basically tied for first in the Iowa caucuses — in last weekend's Iowa poll, Republicans gave Romney a 36 percent favorability rating. Trump, by contrast, has an 85 percent rating.

Most of the marginal Republican Senate incumbents, keenly aware of the Trump base, have indicated, as of now, they'd vote against an impeachment conviction, while trying to avoid the issue. Ernst struggled over a Trump impeachment-related question at a town hall. Gardner has repeatedly declined to say whether it was proper for Trump to pressure a foreign country to smear his political opponent, but he laments impeachment as a "partisan exercise."

McSally, who literally rushed away from reporters at the Capitol when asked about the issue, knows the dangers of trying to walk a fine line. In the Arizona Senate race last year, she tried to self-identify both with Trump and the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMan acquitted over tweet offering 0 to killing an ICE agent Lessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE, two men of profoundly different values and views who had contempt for one another. She lost. She was appointed to the Senate this year to fill a vacancy.

Collins, facing the toughest race of her career in Maine, may be walking the most delicate line. A recent Boston Globe analysis concluded that other than the president, no politician "is more jammed up by impeachment than Collins."

Albert R. Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter-century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @alhuntdc.