On Thursday, the House voted to formalize its impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, with all but two Democrats in favor and every Republican voting against (Republican-turned-independent Justin Amash was an "aye"). The two Democratic dissenters were longtime Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents the reddest district held by a Democrat, and freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who was thanked by Trump for his anti-impeachment comments in September.
In explaining himself, Peterson largely echoed discredited GOP talking points about process, and his decision was likely driven by raw political preservation: His once-blue district in rural northwest Minnesota, numbered the 7th, voted for Trump 62-31 and is likely to keep getting redder. Peterson has also drawn what's likely going to be his toughest challenge ever from former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, who recently earned House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's endorsement.
Two decades ago, though, Peterson felt quite differently. In October 1998, he voted in favor of a Republican resolution opening an impeachment investigation into Bill Clinton, even though the crimes Clinton was alleged to have committed were far less grave than what Trump stands accused of. And while Peterson has always been one of the most conservative members of his caucus, his district had voted for Clinton by a 45-40 margin in 1996. (He ultimately voted against all four articles of impeachment that December.)
Van Drew, meanwhile, faces the opposite political calculus, though he doesn't seem to realize it. Van Drew's district in southern New Jersey also went for Trump, but by a considerably smaller 51-46 margin, and it previously backed Obama twice. In addition, calculations by analyst J. Miles Coleman show that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy carried New Jersey’s 2nd District 50-48 during his successful 2017 run.
By virtue of representing swingy turf, Van Drew was always likely to be a Republican target next year, regardless of his vote on impeachment. Now, though, the conservative congressman has upped the likelihood he'll face the wrath of progressives in June's primary.