Are There Limits To Party Loyalty? GOP Members Nervous About Trump-Ukraine Scandal

When the going gets tough for President Donald Trump, Republicans have typically rallied behind him. Through controversial policies, lawsuits and a 22-month special counsel investigation, most Republicans have been quick to side with their party's standard-bearer.

The GOP faced another test this week after a whistleblower raised concerns about presidential abuses of power and the White House released the text of a phone call revealed that President Trump repeatedly asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a 2020 political rival. The saga prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce the start of a formal impeachment inquiry, a move supported almost unanimously by the Democratic majority in Congress.

Many Republicans offered a full-throated defense of the president and attacked Democrats' renewed push for impeachment. Others dismissed the whistleblower complaint as a "nothing-burger," as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham did. However, a handful of senators and representatives spoke out against Trump describing his behavior as "disturbing" and potentially "really, really bad."

Several news outlets reported that the dissent represented a crack in the dam of Republican support for Trump and signaled a sea change.

A Morning Consult poll showed Republican support for impeachment doubled from 5% to 10% between last week and when Speaker Pelosi officially endorsed the House inquiry. Still, fewer than half of Americans (43%) support impeachment, though a growing number have become less resistant to the idea, including Republicans.

According to GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, there has been no real lapse in Republican support for President Trump, but some politicians are reacting to the uncertainty of a 2020 election that promises to be "one of the nastiest and closest we've seen."

"No one knows how this is going to turn out and there's political risk for both sides," O'Connell said. For Republicans, the risk is that the whistleblower allegations and impeachment effort take hold and tank Trump's reelection along with any chance of a GOP majority. Democrats risk overpromising another bombshell scandal that fails to materialize or persuade voters outside their base.

"Depending on how far this goes, you're going to see people on both sides get nervous," O'Connell said. "And because we don't know where this is headed, people are now concerned about their own political livelihood."

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at WJLA

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published this page in In The News 2019-09-28 12:38:51 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy