Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a moderate Democrat who is strongly opposed to impeaching President Donald Trump, is expected to switch parties and become a Republican, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Van Drew is one of two Democrats who voted against opening the impeachment inquiry into Trump and has remained against the effort, even as the House prepares to vote to impeach the president next week. Van Drew’s decision comes after a meeting with Trump on Friday.
Van Drew’s congressional, campaign staff and other members of the New Jersey delegation were informed he was planning to switch parties on Saturday, according to Democratic sources. The question now was when, not if, Van Drew was joining the Republican Party, according to several Democrats with knowledge of the ongoing conversations.
Rumors had swirled around Capitol Hill this week that Van Drew was considering leaving the Democratic Party but he strongly denied those claims on multiple occasions. Van Drew flipped his GOP district in southern New Jersey, helping deliver Democrats the House majority. The district, which still leans Republican, voted for Trump in 2016.
The stunning move comes amid new polling commissioned by Van Drew’s campaign that shows his approval ratings are under water with Democratic voters in his district. Just 24 percent of Democratic primary voters said Van Drew deserves to be reelected to Congress, and only 28 percent said he deserves to be the Democratic nominee in next year’s election.
If Van Drew voted to impeach Trump, 69 percent would be more likely to back him in next year’s election and 22 percent would be less likely.
One Republican familiar with the situation said Saturday afternoon that the crossover was imminent. “In the works as we speak,” the member said, noting that Van Drew had a meeting “at length” with Trump on Friday. The meeting between Trump and Van Drew was first reported by the Washington Post.
Trump carried the district by 5 points in 2016. Van Drew won it by 8 points in 2018, beating Seth Grossman, an opponent whom national Republicans disavowed after discovering he had made racially insensitive comments.
“It’s one thing to vote against impeachment, but instead of owning up to his constituents and explaining to them why he’s doing what he’s doing, he’s now decided to just completely abandon the Democratic Party and switch,” Suleiman said. “It’s just unconscionable.”
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