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 TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Collins breaks with GOP on attempt to change impeachment rules resolution MORE (R-Maine), Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell keeps press in check as impeachment trial starts Progressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment What to watch for as Senate organizes impeachment on day one MORE (R-Colo.), Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyHow Citizens United altered America's political landscape McConnell keeps press in check as impeachment trial starts Progressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstProgressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate MORE (R Iowa) and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisProgressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment Senate braces for bitter fight over impeachment rules Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump 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 BidenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump says impeachment lawyers were 'really good' 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 AlexanderSenate braces for bitter fight over impeachment rules McConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE, who's retiring, and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' 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 ClintonTrump lawyer argues Democrats have 'absolutely no case' in first impeachment trial remarks McConnell drops two-day limit on opening arguments Chelsea Clinton unveils next 'She Persisted' book 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 RomneySenate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Senate blocks push to subpoena Bolton in impeachment trial Impeachment trial begins with furor over rules 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 McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials 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.