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How Will Rep. Gonzalez' Impeachment Vote Affect His Reelection Chances?

Ohio Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s vote in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump Wednesday went against the majority of his party, and could ultimately cost him the support of some constituents.

Unlike typical legislative actions, an impeachment vote garners more attention from constituents, said Case Western Reserve University Associate Professor of Political Science Justin Buchler.

“An impeachment vote is probably a sufficiently high-profile vote that voters will tend to be aware of it, particularly when a representative may deviate from the preferences of constituents,” Buchler said.

Just 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump, including Gonzalez. Breaking from the party line could cost Gonzalez, who just began his second term representing Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, in the long run, Buchler said.

“Whether or not that would be enough to lose a primary, I’m skeptical,” Buchler said. “But it would probably cost him some support.”

But the impeachment vote this time around broke from precedent because of those Republican votes, Buchler said, becoming the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in history. And the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 makes this different from previous impeachment trials, he said, including Trump’s first impeachment.

“This is a very different circumstance for a lot of Republicans,” Buchler said, “and it’s put pressure on them to break from President Trump in a way that they had not before.”

But deviating from the party line and constituents’ desires may cost Gonzalez support when he is up for reelection in 2022, Buchler said. Because House members only have two-year terms, he said, a vote out of line with constituents may have more impact than it does on senators, who have six years in office before reelection.

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That shorter term means there isn’t as much time between controversial votes and the next election cycle, Buchler said. That means less of an opportunity to recover with voters, he said, and conversely, less time to fundraise on a vote that is popular back home.

The Republican Party has become more consolidated over time, Buchler said. While it was once believed that Republicans from ideologically mixed districts would be more moderate than those in heavily conservative areas, he said, that doesn’t really apply in contemporary politics.

“We don’t tend to see as big a difference between Republicans in marginal seats and Republicans in packed seats as people expect,” Buchler said. “When you look at members of Congress today, for the most part, they tend to stick with their party almost regardless of district.”

Opposition to Trump has caused some high-profile GOP lawmakers to fall out of favor in the party, Buchler said, but those examples are more anecdotal than widespread. Most of the time, opposing Trump hasn’t impacted primary elections, he said.

“A lot of the fears are probably overblown,” Buchler said. “However, there are a few high-profile cases, and what tends to happen is that risk-averse incumbents will focus on a few anecdotes rather than trends in the data.”

Another Ohio Republican, Sen. Rob Portman, also criticized Trump this week. On Tuesday, Portman said Trump bears “some responsibility” for the Capitol siege and called on the president to disavow violence by his supporters.

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