Those in the National Republican Congressional Committee have generated six times as many stories about impeachment in key districts than their counterparts at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to GOP estimates.
Outside conservative groups have spent more than four times as much money targeting House Democrats on impeachment than their liberal counterparts, according to those estimates.
The divergent strategies could be seen up close at the back-to-back news conferences held Thursday by Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
In her nine-minute opening remarks, Pelosi made just one passing reference to the articles of impeachment that the House Judiciary Committee was debating at that moment. Instead, her initial comments focused on bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs, the new North American trade deal and many other issues that have passed the House.
McCarthy took all of 20 seconds in his opening remarks, delivered a few minutes after Pelosi, to reference the Democratic goal of “removing the president” from office and went on to use some version of “impeachment” 10 times in opening remarks that lasted a little more than four minutes.
“More of the same, more impeachment, more subpoenas being issued than laws creating and really the ultimate goal they’ve always dreamed about,” McCarthy said.
This dynamic shows that, in the race for the House majority next year, Republicans so far are the side that is trying to nationalize the campaign and hoping to win back the majority on Trump’s coattails, particularly in the 31 Democratic districts that Trump won in 2016.
Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to run more localized races based on kitchen-table issues that they hope will appeal to independent voters, particularly those in the suburbs who broke sharply against Republicans last year.
To be sure, plenty of Democrats are there discussing impeachment, in news releases, social media and on cable news, particularly those on the committees that led the Ukraine investigation that led to the two articles of impeachment.
But when it comes to Pelosi and those Democrats from swing districts that will determine who holds the majority in 2021, they are steering the discussion in another direction entirely.
On Friday, House Majority Forward, a nonprofit affiliated with the super PAC that supports Pelosi, released a pair of TV ads supporting two Democrats who flipped Republican seats last year and are bracing for difficult reelections, Reps. Abby Finkenauer (Iowa) and Max Rose (N.Y.), thanking them for supporting legislation that passed Thursday designed to lower prescription drug costs.
“Max Rose passed the bill to stop the price gouging,” the narrator says, amid images of Rose leading an Army platoon in Afghanistan and sitting at a diner with senior citizens in his district, before closing with a defiant line that might resonate in the working-class neighborhoods of Staten Island and Brooklyn: “Max Rose knows you have to fight like hell to make things better.”
“She’s leading the charge to cut drug prices,” the narrator says in the Finkenauer ad, over images of her walking with farmers and meeting elderly constituents.
Both Democrats are expected to vote to impeach Trump, making it critical for them to burnish their résumé with other issues aside from supporting the removal from office of a president who won a majority of votes in their districts in 2016.
To some degree, Republicans are just following the lead of Trump, who has ignored pleas to focus on the economy in his statements. In one three-hour span Thursday, Trump issued 80 tweets about impeachment.
(Pelosi, by contrast, issued more than 30 tweets thanking individual Democrats for supporting her prescription drug bill Thursday and Friday.)
In their lines of attack against these Democrats, Republicans and their outside allies are not actually defending Trump’s conduct with regard to asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. They instead want to portray these swing-seat Democrats as being obsessed with impeachment and not accomplishing other legislative goals.
“Max Rose’s decision makes clear he thinks he knows better than his constituents, who elected President Trump to office, and deserve the right to decide the next election for themselves,” Calvin Moore, spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC supporting McCarthy, said in a statement Friday not long after Rose announced his support for impeachment.
That PAC’s affiliate, American Action Network, has run more than $5.3 million in ads against Democrats over the impeachment effort, part of a coalition of GOP-aligned groups that have spent more than $10.5 million on impeachment ads since Sept. 24, according to Republican estimates.
House Majority Forward and a couple of other anti-Trump groups have spent less than $2.5 million on ads related to impeachment.
The campaign committees monitor each other’s news releases and stories that they get mentioned in. By the GOP’s own review, the National Republican Congressional Committee has issued 267 statements about impeachment since Pelosi’s announcement, while the Democratic counterpart has issued just 44.
“Democrats are too obsessed with impeachment to get anything done,” the GOP committee said in a November release targeting freshman Reps. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and TJ Cox (D-Calif.) over the lack of action on the trade deal.
That’s why Pelosi has gone to such great lengths to buffet the impeachment vote with bipartisan legislation. If current planning holds, the impeachment votes will come Wednesday with big votes Tuesday for funding federal agencies and a Thursday vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada deal on trade.
She hopes to neutralize that line of attack from Republicans, making the 2020 races about their accomplishments as anti-Trump fervor among liberals energizes base voters.
When Pelosi finally got around to mentioning impeachment Thursday, it came as she mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for saying Democrats were only focused on impeachment.
“No, it’s not all we’re doing,” she said. “We’ve sent you bills that have not only bipartisanship in the House but also in the country.”