Sound Off! Why Pence Preference Will Not Inspire Impeachment Votes By Luke Perry
Politico recently reported that conservatives have begun “whispering” favorably about “President Pence.” It’s not uncommon for liberals to suggest that Congressional Republicans prefer him, so they won’t fundamentally oppose Trump’s impeachment. This is unrealistic.
Legislative scholars typically assume members of Congress (MC's) are fundamentally concerned about reelection before explaining or predicting their behavior. The impeachment and/or removal from office of the Republican Party leader does not bode well for its members, particularly federal office holders seeking reelection.
Most Republican MC’s endorsed Trump and have largely supported or condoned his executive actions and legislative efforts. This binds evaluations of their performance to his fate, no matter how cautious they have been thus far.
Republicans hadn’t controlled the White House for eight long years. Doing anything to risk control of this office is inherently distasteful.
Mike Pence is a more typical conservative politician, but was already panned as a potential replacement nominee. Previously, he had fallen out of favor with Indiana Republicans and would have faced a highly uncertain reelection bid, thanks to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
To make matters worse, Trump’s demise, particularly if this were to be tied to the campaign, would cast doubt on the legitimacy of Pence’s election. Even if was not legally problematic—no one knows because this has never happened before—Pence would have little chance in 2020. Pence has backed Trump endlessly since marrying their political fortunes together.
Preference and strategy don’t always align. Republicans understand the great gamble in impeaching one of their own. Mike Pence is more of an afterthought than a motivating factor in how things now unfold.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Professor of Government at Utica College. His column Sound Off! critiques various aspects of presidential politics.