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In Impeachment Inquiry, Florida Lawmakers Side With Their Parties – But It's Complicated

J. Scott Applewhite
The U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

Florida’s congressional lawmakers are divided down party lines about President Trump’s impeachment inquiry.  That includes moderate Democrats like Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Central Florida, who had resisted calls for impeachment until this week. The state’s congressional Republicans are standing by the president, with no signs of wavering after the release of the recent whistleblower report.

Voters in the Sunshine State are also split over the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.  Mike Binder, Faculty Director of the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida, joined the Florida Roundup along with John Kennedy, who covers the Florida capital for Gatehouse Media.

Here's an excerpt from their conversation with The Florida Roundup.

This has been lightly edited for clarity.

The Florida Roundup: Mike Binder, let's begin with you. You're a pollster. You have not polled Floridians yet on this matter of impeachment, although you're about to nationally. The country is certainly almost evenly split on this question as to whether impeachment of the president is warranted over these allegations, and we'll get into the details of them in a moment. But how do you think Florida voters are going to react to this?

Mike Binder: I think nationally, as well as here in Florida, what we're going to be seeing over the coming days and weeks is a consolidation of Democratic support for impeachment. There had been some hesitancy among Democrats because leadership of the Democratic Party has been hesitant to do this. Now that the party's on board, you're going to see rank-and-file Democrats be much more supportive.

Republicans are going to probably, in the short term, maintain their opposition. And those independents, what few of them are left – that's going to be fascinating to see what happens with them. Where do they move?

And certainly a Republican leadership in Tallahassee is looking at that. John Kennedy, Governor Ron DeSantis is sticking by the president. He's even sending out fundraising e-mail blasts off of the impeachment proceedings. Senator Marco Rubio is saying that he doesn't believe the president's actions warrant impeachment. Senator Rick Scott said much the same. What are you hearing about this in the state capital, John?   

Kennedy: Well, it is it's pretty much a divide. In the Florida congressional delegation you have 14 Republicans and 13 Democrats. They’re in their respective corners when it comes to their view of this impeachment proceeding. And, you know, to a certain degree I think Florida's congressional delegation as a petri dish reflecting the nation's political divide is pretty accurate.

The opinion numbers are certain to change among voters as more information comes out about the facts surrounding the Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president, but it does look like this is going to be a very long slog. You know, where it all goes kind of hard to tell right now.

There’s an intense feeling around Democrats in Florida.

Mike Binder: Absolutely. And the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has been clamoring for this for months, if not years, for a host of different scandals and perceived infractions that they believe are cause to remove the president from office. It took the latest one where there is very clear, concise … pressuring a foreign political entity with electoral implications, as what pushed the moderate wing of the Democratic Party to finally get to this point. That’s the big change.

Moderates in Florida were really slow to come to this, including Stephanie Murphy in Orlando and also Al Lawson of North Florida. He did not sign onto this until there was already a majority of Democrats in the House willing to move on impeachment. I think that kind of shows you that the politics among Democrats in this state are nuanced around this issue.  

Binder: Trump had a lot of support here in Florida, that's always worth thinking about.  

Kennedy: I think also, for Lawson, it seemed to be something that he felt pressure then from a lot of Democrats – whether they be progressives or, as you point out,  it was moving now to where there were mainstream Democrats also calling for the impeachment. So I think Lawson was just a little bit slow on pushing the button here when it came to his reaction to it, whether he would support an impeachment inquiry or not. But he quickly came around when he started hearing from some of his constituents across north Florida. He is definitely not in one of the swing districts that you would think he could be challenged in.

However, it is a North Florida district. That can be a sizable amount of conservative voters. He's in a little bit of an island in his district that stretches from Jacksonville to the Tallahassee area. But nonetheless, it is a largely minority district – meaning, to a great extent, he has a lot of Democratic voters. But I think there's still a little bit of concern about looking like he's too far left. A candidate like that always wants to sort of satisfy what is a more conservative region of the state.

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