Juan Williams: Trump's grip on GOP Senate may come loose

Juan Williams: Trump's grip on GOP Senate may come loose

As the political winds shift in the perfect storm of the 2020 election and impeachment, think about this:

GOP strategist Mike Murphy last week said on MSNBC that a Republican senator had told him that as many as 30 GOP senators would vote to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE if it were a secret ballot.

Let’s give those 30 Republicans the benefit of the doubt. Each of them has a conscience. Maybe they can’t live with giving Trump a free pass on using military aid money to press another country to find dirt on his Democratic rival, Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Democratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE.

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At the risk of sounding cynical, it does occur to me that Senate Republicans for the first time see Trump’s scandal possibly costing them their majority.

Next year, 23 Senate Republicans will be up for reelection with Trump at the top of the ticket.

Murphy warned that, given Trump’s antics, Senate Republicans are thinking they are “going to lose Colorado with Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGOP 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 Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE. We’re going to lose Maine with Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days Lawmakers call for investigation into program meant to help student loan borrowers with disabilities MORE. We’re going to lose Arizona with Martha McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play.”

At one time, Trump kept Capitol Hill Republicans in line by threatening to have his supporters back a primary challenge to any dissenting GOP member seeking reelection.

Now, that threat has to be weighed against the increasing fear of a weakened president handing the Senate to Democrats.

There is evidence that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill 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 GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.) sees impeachment imperiling his majority next year.

Last week, McConnell showed independence from Trump by coming out publicly in support of continuing military aid to Ukraine.

More important, he also pushed the White House to share the whistleblower complaint with Congress.

And McConnell has to deal with a well-known Senate Republican daring to separate himself from Trump on the Ukraine scandal — Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race Impeachment can't wait MORE (R-Utah).

Romney said he is “deeply troubled” to see reports of Trump pressuring the Ukrainian president to damage Biden. And he later told reporters: “I can’t imagine being in the Senate or in any other position of responsibility and looking around to see who’s with you. You stand for what you believe in.”

Loss of the majority might prompt Republican senators to start their own version of the wave of retirements — 15 so far — that have hit House Republicans since Democrats claimed that majority in the 2018 midterms.

Team Trump knows it has a problem. The president last week tweeted out a video of Romney’s sad, losing face on the night of the 2012 presidential election.

And Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Top Democrats knock Trump on World AIDS Day MORE described Romney as “forever bitter that my father succeeded where he so embarrassingly failed.” The son added that Romney is straying from the president because he is “desperate to be loved by the left and the media.”

But Romney is not the only Republican willing to speak out.

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseFCC votes to bar use of its funds to purchase Huawei, ZTE equipment Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition MORE (R-Neb.) — who was recently endorsed for reelection by Trump — is on the record as saying Republicans “ought not just circle the wagons.”

And outside the Senate, Republican voices challenging Trump for the GOP nomination suddenly, thanks to impeachment, have a larger platform.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldGeorgia GOP submits only Trump's name for primary Democrats take in lobbying industry cash despite pledges Weld: Trump using border wall as a 'scare tactic' MORE, one of three Republicans challenging Trump for the GOP nomination, said Trump’s telephone call with the Ukrainian president amounted to “treason, pure and simple.”

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The shifting political dynamic among Republicans is a budding version of the sudden shift among moderate Democrats in the House that led Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill 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 MORE (D-Calif.) to announce the start of impeachment.

Pelosi shifted only after seven moderate freshman Democrats — several from districts Trump won in 2016 and all with national security backgrounds — penned an op-ed for The Washington Post calling for impeachment.

Until those moderates stood up, Pelosi had a clear reason to resist calls for impeachment. She was protecting them, and in doing so, boosting her own chances of keeping her House majority.

“As members of Congress, we have prioritized delivering for our constituents — remaining steadfast in our focus on health care, infrastructure, economic policy and our communities’ priorities,” the seven freshmen wrote. “Yet everything we do harks back to our oaths to defend the country. These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect.”

Now more than half the members of the US House of Representatives — 223 as of Saturday — have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry.

These politicians know how to read polls. And the polls are shifting in favor of impeachment, too.

Before Pelosi’s announcement a majority of Americans opposed impeachment.

Last week, an NPR/PBS/Marist poll found 49 percent backing for an impeachment inquiry and 46 percent opposition.

The preservation of political power, pure self-interest — from both Democrats and Republicans — is at the heart of the start of impeachment proceedings against the 45th president of the United States.

CORRECTION: Under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, members of Congress can force a vote every six months on Trump's declaration of a national emergency. The vote cannot be prevented by GOP leadership. An earlier version of this story included incorrect information.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.