Digging deeper into the numbers, though, something interesting emerges. On this vote, at least, partisanship clearly took precedence over electoral concerns.
That’s not universally true. There were two Democrats who opposed the inquiry, Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) and Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.).
Peterson was explicit about why he opposed the movement.
“This impeachment process continues to be hopelessly partisan,” he said in a statement. “I have been hearing from my constituents on both sides of this matter for months, and the escalation of calls this past week just shows me how divided our country is right now.” That no Senate Republicans publicly support removal, he said, shows him that “going down this path is a mistake.”
Of course, Peterson also represents a Republican-leaning district and barely won reelection last year. Van Drew’s district is more middle-of-the-road, but it, too, leans slightly Republican.
Only one Democrat represents a district more heavily Republican than Peterson, Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah). McAdams backed the inquiry.
In fact, nearly three dozen Democrats who represent Republican-leaning districts backed the inquiry. The one Republican who represents a Democratic-leaning district, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), opposed it. Asked to choose between their party and the party lean of their constituents, nearly every member of the House chose party. In that sense, Peterson had a point.
Even in red districts in likely 2020 battleground states, Democrats overwhelmingly chose to support the inquiry. That’s significant because two recent polls, from the New York Times and from Siena College, have shown support in battleground states for impeaching Trump and removing him from office lower than the level of support nationally.
In Siena’s polling, for example, support for removing Trump averaged about 44 percent across the six states it identified as swing states. The Times average of the same six states was 43 percent. FiveThirtyEight’s average of national polls on the question puts support at about 48 percent. Nonetheless, even in districts in those states that lean Republican but are held by Democrats, the Democrats voted to support the inquiry.
Of course, as those lawmakers will probably point out with some alacrity, the vote Thursday was only for the inquiry and not for removal, much less impeachment. In those same swing states, a majority of residents supported an inquiry (compared with 51 percent nationally).
There’s one other notable vote on the inquiry. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) is the only House member without a party. He also represents a swing state. He voted in support of the inquiry — unsurprisingly, since he has been a vocal advocate of impeachment for months.
Amash hasn’t been an independent for long, as you probably know. Earlier this year, he left the Republican Party, largely because his outspoken criticism of Trump made him persona non grata with his party’s caucus. So, really, there were three cross-party votes on the inquiry. It’s just that one of those votes came from someone who had already decided his party no longer shared his values.
For Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the day’s vote showed something else. The margin for passing actual articles of impeachment will probably be narrow. Many of those Democrats from Republican-leaning districts will be less eager to vote to punish Trump, regardless of the evidence that comes out during the inquiry — especially if public opinion doesn’t shift.
The Republicans gained two things from the vote: getting members on the record in opposition to the effort; and the ability to claim that the inquiry is partisan. Of course that latter point was a function of their caucus as much as Pelosi’s.