If a bloc of the party comes out for impeachment, it could change the dynamic within the caucus in an instant. A majority of the caucus already supports impeachment but many of the remaining holdouts are the “majority makers” — vulnerable Democrats who flipped Republican districts in 2018 to take back control of the House.
If that starts to happen in earnest, how will we know it?
But we’ll really know something is shifting if we start to see movement in the very toughest districts of all.
Fortuitously, a new report from the political group Third Way breaks down all the districts held by Democrats into several categories that are useful for our purposes here.
One category includes districts that were decided by close races in 2018 (in which the margin of victory was within single digits). A second category includes districts that were flipped from GOP control (that is, won by ousting a GOP incumbent). And a third category includes districts that Trump carried in 2016.
There are numerous districts that meet all three of those criteria. That’s not too surprising — there was bound to be a lot of overlap — but those are arguably some of the very toughest districts of all.
By my count, there are 19 districts that comprise those three categories: Each one was decided within single digits and was swiped from a GOP incumbent in 2018 and was carried by Trump in 2016. I matched these up against this full list of where Democratic lawmakers stand on an impeachment inquiry.
It turns out that in 18 of these 19 districts, the Democratic lawmaker has not come out for an impeachment inquiry. That’s not too surprising, but it underscores just how difficult Democrats in those types of places think the politics of their districts make it for them to support even an inquiry, which, you will recall, is merely the start of the process, not the impeachment vote itself.
Here’s a list of those 18 members: Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria, Ben McAdams, Joe Cunningham, Kendra Horn, Anthony Brindisi, Antonio Delgado, Max Rose, Xochitl Torres Small, Andy Kim, Jeff Van Drew, Angie Craig, Haley Stevens, Elissa Slotkin, Jared Golden, Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer and Lucy McBath. The only one in that category to come out for an inquiry is Rep. Underwood.
There are also 21 districts that were decided by single digits but aren’t in all three categories. Many of those were also taken from a GOP incumbent but weren’t carried by Trump, probably reflecting the ability of some GOP lawmakers to win in 2016 even in districts carried by Hillary Clinton before losing in 2018, when Trump made things much worse for them.
A bit more than half of those districts are represented by Democrats who still haven’t come out for an impeachment inquiry. They include: Reps. Colin Allred, Lizzie Fletcher, Matthew Cartwright, Steven Horsford, Susie Lee, Collin C. Peterson, Sharice Davids, Donna Shalala, Gil Cisneros, TJ Cox, Josh Harder and Tom O’Halleran.
So if we see new movement among these two groups of Democrats, you’ll know something is up.
It’s also worth watching these lawmakers for another reason: If the House does ultimately vote on articles of impeachment, you’ll need a sizable bloc of these lawmakers to vote for those articles to avoid impeachment failing (which would be followed by the mother of all victory laps from Trump).
So even if most of those lawmakers do end up supporting an impeachment inquiry, leading Pelosi to more full-throatedly endorse impeachment hearings, that doesn’t necessarily mean impeachment articles could pass the House. Which is to say there’s still a long way to go.
Update: Since this piece posted, numerous House Democrats listed above have moved decisively towards supporting impeachment hearings, including Reps. Harder, Delgado, Stevens, Cisneros, Crow, Houlahan, Luria, Sherrill, Slotkin, and Spanberger.