Some Senate Republicans will risk paying a “huge price at the polls” this fall if they help their senior party leadership acquit U.S. President Donald Trump in his looming impeachment trial, says one former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In an interview with The West Block‘s guest host Eric Sorensen, Howard Dean said he anticipates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could see himself “lose some control” over several members of his party if he follows through on pledges to try to shut down the impeachment trial.
That’s because of the batch of rotating Senate elections happening this fall in conjunction with the presidential election.
“So far, the president has been incredibly effective at bending Republicans to his will but there’s nothing more stimulating than losing your own election,” said Dean, also a former governor of Vermont and a superdelegate who could be called to cast a ballot in his party’s leadership race.
“The president can cause this with many of these senators – that’s why they’re so obedient to him – but in this case, a bad vote or a whitewash or a cover-up by the entire leadership of the United States Senate is not likely to enhance their candidacy in the swing districts.”
American media have put the spotlight on roughly eight Republican senators viewed as being potential swing voters or at the very least, voices that could challenge McConnell’s vow to have the chamber work in “total coordination” with the White House.
There are 100 seats in the Senate and while impeachment would require a supermajority of 67 votes, the actual proceedings themselves operate on a simple majority basis. That means just 51 votes are needed in order to do things like call witnesses to testify.
The Republicans hold 53 seats while the Democrats hold 47.
Some of those being watched most closely are Republicans Mitt Romney (a frequent Trump critic), Lisa Murkowski (who has a reputation as a moderate), Martha McSally (who is up for re-election this fall), Cory Gardner (also up for re-election), Susan Collins (sometimes considered a moderate but who supported Brett Kavanagh’s controversial appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court), Lamar Alexander (retiring this fall) and Joni Ernst (a first-term senator up for re-election).
Democrat Doug Jones will also face a tough decision — he’s the one who beat Republican Roy Moore in 2017 in a heavily pro-Trump state.
Many of those Republicans are also facing rising support for Democrats in some polls, raising the question of whether they will see a political calculus in heeding the calls of those voters for a thorough trial or in bending to the will of their party.
Dean added that those calculations come as the Democratic Party is undergoing its own challenges in charting a course for the future and picking a new leader.
“Nobody knows who the best candidate to beat Trump is,” he said.
Their main challenge though, he noted, will be getting voters to actually turn up at the polls, and less the need to win over swing voters.
“There’s not much swing back and forth –- it’s who comes to the polls.”