By Matt Rooney
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D, NJ-07) is singing a slightly but significant different tune these days, Save Jerseyans.
For weeks, the freshman Democrat boasted about being “the first member of the House elected in a swing district” to support impeaching President Donald Trump. Now? The radical Democrat told a Cranford town hall audience over the weekend that he doesn’t “want anyone jumping up for joy. This (impeachment) is a last resort.” And he’s not alone.
Capitol Hill Democrats were tripping over their own feet to rush impeachment earlier this month, hoping to have articles introduced (and perhaps even voted upon) before the holidays commenced and Americans’ tuned out for a few weeks. The latest line, however, is that witness scheduling issues and new leads are slowing the timeline. The NYT says Democrats plan to “sharpen their public case.“
The first part is of course total bullshit.
Malinowski himself told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes back on October 1st that, in his opinion, “this is the rare congressional investigation in which we already know most of the facts before we even begin.” No further investigation should be needed! They have Trump red handed, they told us. There’s no reason to wait particularly if they have the facts to impeach and Trump is indeed some species of clear and present threat to the American Republic.
What’s really going on here?
The public line from Republicans: they’re getting cold feet.
“Tom Malinowski is changing his tune to try and save himself after realizing what an electoral pickle he’s created for himself in backing the far-left on impeachment,” said Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) Spokesman Calvin Moore. “Unfortunately, it’s too late for Malinowski to walk it back now that he let his hatred for President Trump torch any chance of delivering on even a single priority he promised on the campaign trail.”
There might be something to that, as well as the NYT “sharpen their public case” observation. We have building albeit anecdotal polling evidence that impeachment is a divisive issue in swing states and districts despite coastal population center-tilted national polls showing building support for the Democrats’ inquiry. To paraphrase Roll Call‘s analysis: swing district voters simply aren’t there yet. They don’t love the Donald but they’re also not quite enamored with the pitchfork and torches approach. Barring a new development which kicks things into a different gear (always possible), impeachment polls appear to be stabilizing.
Incumbents are leading fundraising in districts like NJ-07 (Malinowski raised $1,733,868.97 as of the end of September), but the two GOP primary contenders in that district (Tom Kean Jr. and Rosemary Becchi) have combined thus far for over $1.3 million. That’s not bad considering they’re challenging a Democrat incumbent in a blue state with no real Republican infrastructure to speak of; there’s even a well-publicized pre-impeachment poll showing Malinowski in a hypothetical head-to-head nail-biter with Kean. In swing states around the country, the Trump campaign and national GOP are killing Democrats in fundraising fueled by impeachment.
Pelosi, Malinowski and the rest of the previously-cautious Democrats jumped into this whole thing without looking. Partially owing to pressure from their base and donors, partially because they feared another Russiagate debacle (the operating theory among Dems is they waited too long to spring that trap before it collapsed).
Now they’re worried that they got out ahead of the handful of persuadable voters in districts like North-Central Jersey’s suburban NJ-07 who will decide 2020’s close congressional contests. Follow the money. The Media’s projection of an inevitable Trump impeachment catastrophe is an attempt at wish fulfillment.
Democrats (Malinowski included) need more time to sell impeachment to the American people or risk a massive backfire from energized Republicans and unamused independents. They’ll slow roll this thing until the sale is closed (if ever).