President Trump on Tuesday praised Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat who plans to switch parties after voting against impeachment.
“Congressman Jeff Van Drew is very popular in our great and very united Republican Party,” Trump tweeted. “It was a tribute to him that he was able to win his heavily Republican district as a Democrat. People like that are not easily replaceable!”
In 2018, Van Drew won by 8 points over the Republican nominee in New Jersey’s Second Congressional District, which Trump won by nearly 5 points and previously had been represented by a Republican for 24 years. He faces reelection next year.
Van Drew made the decision to switch parties after meeting with the president late last week.
“Always heard Jeff is very smart!” Trump tweeted Saturday after the news broke.
At least six members of Van Drew’s staff resigned in protest over his jump to the GOP.
“Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office,” the staffers wrote in a resignation letter.
“He’s putting politics over the Constitution, he’s putting cuteness over courage and he’s cutting and running,” New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said on CNN. “He apparently saw some poll numbers he didn’t like. He’s on the wrong side of impeachment.”
The move also did not sit well with Republicans who were planning to run for his seat next year.
“This is the end of his career,” David Richter, a Republican businessman who has been campaigning for the seat, told the New York Times.
In October, Van Drew was just one of two House Democrats to vote against opening the impeachment inquiry.
The other, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says he’s also been approached by top Republicans about switching parties but has no plans to do so.
“I’m staying in the party, in spite of some of the stuff that’s going on that I don’t agree with. I am not going to switch parties at this stage of my career,” Peterson told a local radio station. “There have been overtures by the highest levels of the Republican Party in the last couple weeks to ask if I would consider it and I told them no.”
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