Vulnerable House Democrats, aware of the continued strength of President Donald Trump among the Republican voters, use caution to respond to the report of the special counsel, detailing Trump’s efforts to thwart Russia’s enquiry into helping him win over the White House.
Over 30 Democratic representatives, many of whom are in their first term, represent districts that supported Trump in 2016. The chances of the party maintaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives are likely to hinge its ability to defend those seats.
Special counsel Robert Mueller said in the report released on Thursday that Trump may have obstructed justice and portrayed a president bent on stopping the probe from meddling with Russia. But Mueller stopped short of concluding that a crime had been committed, leaving him to make his own determination to Congress.
This pressures Congressional Democrats to decide whether to prosecute Trump whose continued popularity with the Republicans could heavily weigh on Democratic legislators in swing districts.
Those incumbent Democrats may need to strike a delicate balance on next year’s campaign trail. Too much of the president’s bashing might turn voters more interested in kitchen table issues out and motivate Trump sympathizers to rally around him.
In fact Abby Spanberger, a Virginian Democrat Congressman, held a town hall that saw almost no discussion of the report a few hours after Muellers findings were released. Last year, she knocked a Republican incumbent in a District that promoted Trump by more than 6 percentage points in 2016.
Prior to the event, the 39-year-old reporter said she wanted to avoid Russia attacking the election procedure rather than re-examine the presidential contest for 2016.
“Whatever the actions the President has taken or has not taken … An understanding of the aggression of a foreign opponent against the infrastructure of our election should ideally help us in the future to prevent these circumstances,” she said.
Other democrats facing reelection in swing districts were also cautious about their reservation for judgment until the voluminous report had been read, or about threats of Russian interference instead of Trump’s conduct.
“If it remains a conclusion that no more criminal offense exists, I believe that we should, as a country, move on and ensure that Russia is prevented from interfering again,” stated the Republican-leaning district Utah Democrat Freshman, Ben McAdams.
The 448-page publication of the report has generated an internal debate on how to move ahead within the Democratic party.
Party leaders have played down the prosecution, even when they said they are going to pursue a complete unedited copy of the report and bring Mueller to Capitol Hill to bear witness. She also expressed support for the opening of an inquiry on the prosecution by some Liberal caucus members, including Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Córtez of New York.
The Illinois Democrat and the leader of the party’s house campaign arm, U.S. representative Cheri Bustos, set the tone for the most endangered colleagues on Thursday, and said in an announcement that she would carefully read the report and then look at further matters.
“While reviewing this report, I continue my efforts to cut healthcare costs, invest in our infrastructure and clean up this mess in Washington,” said Bustos.
A Michigan democrat, Haley Stevens, who won her first term last fall in a 2016 Trump District, said that many Democrats had been voted by the Reuters Group because “voters want checks on and balances, and we can trust a return to good government.”
Nevertheless, the 35-year-old, speaking after the Town Hall on Thursday night, stressed that most voters who will vote in 2020 are more concerned about healthcare, education and infrastructure.
One of her constituents, Joy Marie Zug, said that after supporting Democratic President Barack Obama in 2016 she voted for Trump. Zug says she’s been sick of Trump because of his “lies.”
The 46-year-old adult education administrator said that Democrats should consider prosecuting on the base of the Mueller report’s mountains of evidence. But reflecting the difficulty of Democrats ‘ strategic choice, she said it should not be a major campaign issue.
“I don’t think they need to run on that,” she said. “I wish it hadn’t been the end.”
Democrats looking for 2020 must also weigh up if the views of voters on the Russian probe are even persuasive, given the deep partisan divisions of the country.
A survey carried out by Reuters/Ipsos on Thursday and Friday after the report was released found 50% of Americans agreed that Trump or someone in his campaign worked with Russia during the campaign, and 58% of those surveyed said they thought Trump was trying to stop investigating the campaign.
These figures were quite similar to previous elections, and divided heavily into groups.
One of the Democratic Senior Strategists, who participated in the forming of a campaign message for 2020 House candidate, said that the Party’s own investigations showed that the Russia probe did not resonate especially for electors.
He said, however, that the results of Mueller create the background “mood music” when Democrats talk about corruption and the accountability of the government in general.