The Trump Impeachment Question Has Nationalized Virginia’s Legislative Races

And just like that, impeachment is the defining issue of the 2020 elections. It’s been the only issue that mattered for a while (although some Virginia Democrats preferred to keep it at arm’s length).

Now impeachment could be the only issue that matters in the commonwealth’s Nov. 5 General Assembly elections.

The change was quick and, for most campaigns, utterly unexpected.

Freshmen Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger made the switch in a group op-ed published Monday in The Post. Another Virginia Democratic holdout, Rep. Don McEachin, has joined the impeachment bandwagon.

The lone undecided Democratic House member is the dean of the state’s congressional delegation: Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott.

As for Virginia’s Republican House members, this is President Trump’s party now. Anyone thinking of following the path blazed by the late M. Caldwell Butler in the Watergate hearings will be sprayed with Twitter invective and likely face a nomination challenge from MAGA-land.

It’s small potatoes compared to what Butler faced when the then-freshman member of the House Judiciary Committee publicly announced he would vote to impeach Richard Nixon:

Butler dealt with hate mail and bomb threats, but his stiffest opposition came from his mother, who wrote him that his future “will go down the drain if you do not stand with your party at this critical time.”

But hey — there’s always the Sean Spicer path to “Dancing With the Stars,” right?

Before Virginia curls into a collective ball at that prospect, there are the political consequences of impeachment to consider.

Democrats seeking to take full control of the General Assembly for the first time since 1995 have long counted on some sort of “Trump bump” to help motivate their base.

How much of a bump is the great unanswered question. It will help drive turnout, which is paramount in an off-off year election.

Until now, it looked like Virginia Democrats might have to fight Republicans on kitchen table issues: education, taxes, schools, public safety. In other words, Democrats were inexorably heading toward a low-turnout election that would have given Republicans a stronger chance to hold the House of Delegates and a glimmer of a chance to retain the Senate.

The rapid shift in the U.S. House toward impeachment has changed that dynamic. Virginia’s General Assembly elections are now nationalized.

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