- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2019

While impeachment fever consumes Washington, House Democrats back home in swing districts are walking a fine line between backing the impeachment inquiry and calling for the removal of President Trump from office.

All but a handful of Democrats support the impeachment inquiry sanctioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, which centers on allegations that Mr. Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into opening an investigation into political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

A vocal faction led by impeachment hawks in safe districts, including Reps. Al Green of Texas, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and David Cicilline of Rhode Island, insists they already have the goods on Mr. Trump to draft articles of impeachment.

It is a more complicated political calculation for Democrats in swing districts, where they tread carefully.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who managed to narrowly flip her conservative Virginia district into the Democratic column in the 2018 midterms, last month helped prod Mrs. Pelosi to launch the inquiry.

In an op-ed, Ms. Spanberger and six other freshman Democrats with national security backgrounds argued the Ukraine incident crossed a line that other allegations surrounding the president simply hadn’t. They urged party leadership to use every tool, including “impeachment hearings” to investigate.

Just a few days later, she cautioned against jumping straight to impeachment.

“I want to be clear on that because I think it’s important that everyone understands what’s at stake. Because we must fully investigate these allegations, determine if they are true or false — because if they are true, that is a grave circumstance for this country,” Ms. Spanberger told The Free Lance-Star in Fredricksburg, Virginia.

She stressed that the allegation might be false.

“And if they are false, that is something we should know, we should admit, and we should discuss openly, as well. There shouldn’t be this cloud hanging over this circumstance,” she said.

Soon after Mrs. Pelosi launched the inquiry, Congress members left for a two-week recess and had to face voters back home.

One of the more vulnerable members, Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois, devoted one of his marathon town halls to the impeachment inquiry issue.

“The fact that we have to have, are having this conversation right how is not a cause for celebration, it is moment of responsibility, it is a moment of truth, it is a moment of trying to make sure we have a shared set of facts,” he told his constituents, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Several others lawmakers heard an earful.

Republican groups have been staging protests in competitive districts against Democrats such as Reps. Jared Golden of Maine, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Lucy McBath of Georgia and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina.

“What’s the rush with impeachment? Impeachment is a serious thing,” one constituent told Ms. Slotkin.

Even as these vulnerable lawmakers are walking the tightrope on impeachment, they’re also continuing to tout their efforts on the legislative front, reminding voters they’re still trying to address kitchen table issues at the core of the midterm elections.

“I think if we have a good strategic plan then the folks who are focused on impeachment will move out and the folks who are supposed to be focused on everything else — a transportation bill, prescription drug legislation — they will work just as hard at that legislation and pushing that forward as the folks who are focused on impeachment,” Ms. Slotkin told reporters before the two-week break.

Mrs. Pelosi has also kept that effort up, blasting out reminders about the trade deal with Mexico and China and Democrats’ new prescription drug bill even as she goes toe-to-toe with the Trump administration over the impeachment investigation process.

According to polling data from a Trump-aligned nonprofit America First Policies, impeachment is playing poorly among swing-district voters in states such as New York, Oklahoma and Utah.

Lawmakers are closely watching the polls, which have shown more Americans getting on the impeachment train. A recent National Public Radio survey showed a majority of voters — 54% — want an impeachment inquiry but they split on impeachment and removal from office, with 49% opposed and 47% in favor.

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