The Hill, quoting Democrat sources reported that Van Drew has begun informing his staff and fellow New Jersey lawmakers that he will leave the Democratic Party.
The eccentric former state lawmaker known on Capitol Hill for wearing flashy suits, had swatted down rumours earlier in the week that he was considering leaving the Democratic Party.
His decision, first reported by The Washington Post, comes just a day after he had a lengthy meeting at the White House with Trump.
A former dentist, Van Drew replaced former Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), who served 12 terms before retiring at the end of the last Congress. Adopting the historically red district, Van Drew moved quickly to distance himself from the liberal wing of the House Democratic Caucus, voting “present” during the election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for Speaker in January and joining the conservative-leaning Blue Dog Democrats shortly thereafter.
In October, he was one of just two House Democrats to vote against the package of rules governing the impeachment process — the other was Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) — and he has vowed since then to oppose any impeachment articles that come to the floor related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Van Drew has cited two central reasons for his opposition to impeachment. First, he said Trump’s handling of foreign policy in Kyiv does not merit his removal.
“An article of impeachment is a very specific, very serious action, literally akin to declaring war, because you’re disenfranchising voters,” Van Drew told reporters earlier in the week. “So some folks … may not like the people that voted for Trump, but they still voted. So millions of those folks would be disenfranchised.”
Second, he voiced concerns that if the Senate declines to remove the president, as expected, Trump would use that acquittal as ammunition on the campaign trail to target Democrats up and down the ballot.
Democrats, according to The Hill report punctured Drew’s reasons for leaving the party.
Democrats said Van Drew’s decision came after he saw jarring results from an internal poll showing that primary voters in his district had soured on him and his anti-impeachment position.
Fifty-eight percent of Democrats said they wanted to nominate someone else for the seat in 2020, while only 28 percent said Van Drew should be renominated, according to a copy of the poll shown to The Hill.
The internal survey, conducted by TargetSmart from Dec. 7 to Dec. 11, also asked how Democrats would respond if Van Drew voted no on impeachment. More than 70 percent of Democrats said they would be less likely to support him, compared to 22 percent who said they would back him.
“He’s an NRA favourite. He’s passed no meaningful legislation, he’s raised no money and his own polling shows he has no chance in the election,” said a senior Democratic source. “This has nothing to do with impeachment and everything to do with a politician who hasn’t delivered for his constituents.”