Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash made news this weekend when he declared that President Donald Trump has “engaged in impeachable conduct.”
That a Republican member of Congress said this should not be taken as a sign of any sort of revolt or even mini-revolt by Republicans against Trump.
Amash is an unusual congressman who isn’t representative of most Republicans, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a primary challenger, such as the already declared State Rep. Jim Lower, defeated him next year.
Amash sports the most anti-Trump record of any current congressional member. According to FiveThirtyEight, which tracks how often congresspeople and senators vote with Trump’s position, Amash has voted with the President 62% of the time over the last two congresses. To put that in perspective, the average House Republican member has voted with Trump 93% of the time since 2017.
Amash, though, isn’t just the odd man out because he votes more against Trump than most Republicans. He’s part of a small group of Republicans who often vote against Trump because they feel some of the positions he takes are insufficiently conservative. FreedomWorks, a group associated with the tea party and more libertarian positions, gives Amash a 100% lifetime score on its recent legislative scorecard. Compare that to someone like Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who also has voted with Trump less than 70% of the time. His FreedomWorks lifetime score is only 29%.
Most of the (minimal) anti-Trump fervor from the Republican Party comes from the left and center, not the right. In our latest CNN poll, 91% of Republicans and independents who lean Republicans and call themselves conservative approve of the job Trump is doing as President. Trump’s approval rating drops to 74% among Republicans who do not identify as conservative (e.g. moderate or liberal).
You see the same ideological split when it comes to whether Republicans believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Just 3% of conservative Republicans think the President should be impeached and removed from office. That climbs to 11% among Republicans who do not identify as conservative.
Still, even in the most anti-Trump wing of the party, support for him is rather strong. The vast majority of conservative (97%) and not conservative Republicans (89%) do not want Trump impeached and removed from office.
Overall, 85% of Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) approved of Trump’s job performance and a minute 6% want him impeached and removed from office.
These are not the types of numbers on which you’d expect droves of Republican members of Congress to come out for impeaching Trump. When a sizable minority of (mostly moderate) Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee voted for recommending impeachment against Republican President Richard Nixon in 1974, his approval rating was hovering around 50% among Republicans in Gallup polling. In a Louis Harris and Associates poll, about half of voters who supported Nixon in 1972 supported impeachment and about a third wanted him thrown out of office.
Trump’s numbers today suggest that a Republican member of Congress is committing political suicide if he comes out against the Republican president. This is especially the case given the area Amash represents.
Amash’s district (Michigan 3rd) was not won by Trump in the 2016 primary. It was one of only three Michigan congressional districts to vote for Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential primary. Cruz’s strongest ideological group was self-described “very conservatives.” The 2016 result may suggest to some that Trump is weaker in Amash’s district than in other places, but, unlike in the 2016 primary, Trump’s strongest group within the Republican Party is now very conservative Republicans.
Amash also has a history of having to face down primary threats. Back in 2014, he came in under 60% against challenger Brian Ellis. That was long before he went up against a Republican president. With Lower already in the race against Amash for 2020, Amash is likely to have another competitive primary. If Trump campaigns against Amash, it could spell defeat for Amash.
It’s difficult to imagine many other Republican representatives wanting to face that prospect.