Politics

New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, anti-impeachment Democrat, flips to Republican Party

Key Points
  • New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew announces that he will become a Republican.
  • Van Drew is one of just three Democrats to vote against President Donald Trump's impeachment in the House.
  • Van Drew's defection to the GOP was widely speculated.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., December 4, 2019.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, one of just three Democrats to vote against President Donald Trump's impeachment in the House of Representatives, will become a Republican, Trump announced Thursday.

Van Drew's flip was revealed at the White House less than one day after the House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, delivered the "very big announcement" that "Jeff will be joining the Republican Party."

"This is just a better fit for me," Van Drew said, adding that Trump has his "undying support."

Trump responded that he will endorse Van Drew's bid for reelection in New Jersey.

Van Drew's defection to the GOP was widely anticipated. He had been a staunch critic of the House impeachment inquiry, arguing that the efforts to convict and remove Trump from office stood no chance of passing a Republican-held Senate.

"Why don't we let the people do the impeachment by voting in the electoral process the way that we usually do," Van Drew said in a recent television interview.

Perhaps more pressing for Van Drew, however, was the difficult path to reelection he faces in 2020.

A recent internal poll from Target Smart showed 60% of respondents saying that "someone new" should be elected, while 24% said that Van Drew "deserves to be re-elected."

And ahead of Van Drew's announcement Thursday afternoon, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press secretary Robyn Patterson shared a portion of Van Drew's internal polls showing similar results.

Just a year earlier, Van Drew flipped the Republican-held New Jersey congressional district, besting Republican challenger and former Atlantic Council official Seth Grossman. Trump won the district 51-46 in the 2016 presidential election.

The National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew its endorsement of Grossman after he reportedly shared an article by a white nationalist site that called black people "a threat to all who cross their paths." He later claimed not to be endorsing what was said in the post.

Van Drew won that race, succeeding longtime moderate Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who retired that year.

Vice President Mike Pence told Van Drew in the Oval on Thursday that "your district will be as grateful as we are."

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— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.