There are currently 53 Republicans in the Senate, and so long as 34 of them stand by President Trump, a successful impeachment in the Democratic-controlled House will fail to remove our criminal president from office. That makes reducing that number to 33 Washington’s new favorite cocktail party game!
Here’s my attempt at identifying candidates for the 20 Republicans we’ll need to vote like patriots (regardless of their true feelings) when Trump goes on trial in the Senate.
It’s based on the assumption that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will present evidence of Donald Trump’s quid pro quo collusion with Russian intelligence agents, leading to the President’s impeachment in the House. This also assumes that Trump will go into the Senate trial with a net approval rating of at least -25 points, and approval of 35 percent or lower. I’ve divided the list into five tiers, in more or less descending order of likelihood.
There are 26 names on my list — half the GOP caucus — and no, I don’t expect to get all of them. Neither will the names in the first two tiers alone get us to the magic number. Securing the final votes en route to a 67-vote super-majority is going to require some serious political skulduggery (see: Steven Spielberg’s political masterpiece, Lincoln). But it might be possible.
My methodology: Other than Senators with personal animus toward Trump, I focused on those with some motive to remove their party’s leader, such as winning re-election in states that are becoming increasingly hostile to Republicans.
Some Trump-dumping states are obvious (Colorado, where Sen. Cory Gardner is up in 2020, is an increasingly blue electorate). Others — like “frontier” states Montana and Alaska, or Mormon Utah or quirky Cajun Louisiana — are a little harder to predict. In two cases, I put retiring Senators in the “Likely Remove” column. In another, I scored the “retirement” factor in Trump’s favor.
It’s all a crapshoot. But this is what I’ve got so far.
Tier No. 1: They either want to vote Trump out of office or face political realities that demand it.
- Mitt Romney: He’s both a Mormon and a former GOP nominee, so yes, he hates Trump. He dreams of this vote.
- Ben Sasse: Wants to run for President in 2024. Must separate himself from Trump to have a chance.
- Lisa Murkowski: She’s Alaskan, so there’s no lockstep conservative mentality. Clearly dislikes Trump.
- Pat Roberts: A parting shot from an Old School Republican who used to chair the Intel Committee.
- Cory Gardner: His only hope for 2020 reelection in Colorado is proving independence by supporting removal.
- Susan Collins: Combination of Maine politics and personal animus. But will she ever find the guts?
- Lamar Alexander: Tennessee would punish him, but he’s retiring in 2020. Can stick the shiv for free.
- Martha McSally: Lost Flake’s open seat to a Democrat in 2018, then was appointed to McCain’s vacant Arizona term. She’ll lose again in 2020, but by a wider margin, if she votes to keep Trump in office.
- Marco Rubio: Wants to be President, so it’s a risky but necessary defection.
- Mike Crapo: A Utah Mormon. Like Romney, he’s not up for re-election, but Utah’s conservative base is unique.
- Bill Cassidy: Cassidy is an independent-minded doctor, and Louisiana politics are quirky.
- Rand Paul: Libertarian. Disdains Trump on principle. Will want to opine about it. Needs the right excuse.
Tier No. 2: No particular personal motivation, but political calculus suggests it.
- Rob Portman: 2022 incumbent in purple-trending-blue Ohio. Won’t win re-election if he protects Trump.
- Pat Toomey: 2022 incumbent in purple-trending-blue Pennsylvania. Won’t win re-election if he protects Trump.
- Dan Sullivan: Up for re-election in 2020. Independent Alaskans won’t reward him for defending Trump, but might punish him for standing with him.
- Shelley Moore Capito: West Virginia is a weird state, and she could face a serious Democratic challenge in 2020.
- Joni Ernst: Super-conservative, but she’s up for re-election in Iowa and defending Trump could be the bigger risk.
Tier No. 3: Touch and Go. At best.
- Tim Scott: A lock-step Republican until late 2018, when he blocked a racist GOP appointee to the federal bench. Could probably vote against Trump win re-election in South Carolina four years from now. Might recognize Trump’s racism and be prepared to confront it.
- Richard Burr: Current Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He knows Trump is dirty and comes from purple North Carolina, but his base is strongly white Southern evangelical.
- Steve Danes: Montana is an independent-minded Western state with a defiant political culture.
- Mike Lee: A Mormon from Mormon-heavy Idaho. He’s super conservative, but Mormon voters have bailed on Trump.
- James Risch: Another Idaho Republican, but unlike Sen. Lee, he’s not Mormon. If Lee tilts, Risch, who is up for re-election in 2020, might follow.
Tier No. 4: Maybe with the right blackmail leverage
- Thom Tillis: The North Carolina troglodyte is up for re-election in 2020, and it’s a swing state.
- Ron Johnson: He’s already told Wisconsin voters he’s not running for re-election in 2022, but that actually works in Trump’s favor, I suspect. He can vote for Trump just because deep down he wants to. Or not.
Tier No. 5: Freaky wildcards
- Ted Cruz: Yes, he’s from Texas. Yes, he’s in the running for the title “World’s Biggest Asshole,” and is also probably the Zodiac Killer. But he hates Trump, who emasculated him in 2016, and he’d love to return the favor.
- Mitch McConnell: I know, right? But here’s the argument: McConnell is a pragmatist with zero personal loyalty to Trump or anyone. If McConnell concludes that Trump is beyond redemption and that protecting him in the Senate will preclude retaining his Republican majority, McConnell will move from Trump defender to Trump nemesis in an instant.