Republican Opponent Calls Jeff Van Drew 'Desperate' as Democrat Reportedly Plans to Switch Party Over Trump Impeachment

Republicans and Democrats in New Jersey have responded critically after reports that Democratic Representative Jeff Van Drew plans to switch political parties, with one GOP challenger calling him "desperate" and another calling him a "weasel."

Van Drew, who is a moderate Democrat, reportedly told his aides on Saturday that he planned to officially switch parties and become a Republican, according to The New York Times. The representative has been a staunch critic of his Democratic colleagues impeachment inquiry against the Donald Trump, and reportedly asked the president directly on Friday for his support as he made the decision.

But it's unclear that the decision would actually benefit the New Jersey congressman politically, as Republicans in the state's 2nd district have responded negatively.

"How stupid does Desperate Jeff Van Drew think South Jersey Republicans are? Desperate Jeff knew exactly what Washington Democrats were about when he ran for Congress two years ago," Republican congressional candidate Brian Fitzherbert, who would be running against Van Drew, said in a Saturday statement, Politico reported.

David Richter, another GOP candidate for the party's nomination in the district, called Van Drew an "absolute weasel," according to The Press of Atlantic City. He asserted that he'd be amazed if Republicans who have long voted against the congressman would now back him if he switched political parties.

"Congressman Van Drew's switcheroo is a sad reflection of his desperation and lack of principle," Bob Patterson, another GOP contender, said in a statement emailed to Newsweek. "It's clear that Van Drew will say and do anything to hold onto political power."

Newsweek has reached out to the campaigns' of Fitzherbert and Richter for additional comment on Van Drew's reported decision.

Republican chairman of Atlantic County Keith Davis told Politico that his party's nomination process would move forward like normal, whether or not Van Drew is involved. "We have a process, and we'll see how it goes," he said. "We've got three candidates in the race right now, we have a convention in the spring and I'm sure it will be an interesting one."

Meanwhile, Democrats in New Jersey have also voiced their criticism.

Van Drew "has chosen his political career over our Constitution. Despite knowing full well that the President has abused the powers of his office, he's now willing to enable Donald Trump just to try to salvage his own election," the state's Democratic Governor Phil Murphy said in a Saturday tweet. Murphy suggested that the move would inevitably cost Van Drew his seat, adding: "I am confident that a Democrat who shares the values and priorities of our Democratic Party will hold this seat."

Newsweek has reached out to Van Drew's press secretary for comment.

Wow, that would be big. Always heard Jeff is very smart!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019

The congressman already voted against the rules governing the impeachment inquiry, expressing his opposition to the Democratic-led investigation. He suggested last week that he planned to vote against the president's impeachment as well.

"As I said before, my position never changed unless there was something new and unusual -- and there is nothing new and unusual," CNN's Manu Raju reported Van Drew as saying.

Trump publicly thanked Van Drew for his opposition to the impeachment push in a Saturday tweet.

"Thank you for your honesty Jeff. All of the Democrats know you are right, but unlike you, they don't have the 'guts' to say so!" he wrote. The president later re-tweeted the news that Van Drew was reportedly planning to switch his party affiliation. "Wow, that would be big. Always heard Jeff is very smart!" Trump tweeted.

If the congressman actually announces the change as has been reported, it will go directly counter to his previous statements to the press. In November, Van Drew told reporters that he was "absolutely not changing" his political party.

This article has been updated with a statement from Bob Patterson.

Jeff Van Drew
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28: U.S. Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) speaks to members of the media outside a closed House Democrats organizational meeting at Longworth House Office Building November 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. House Democrats have nominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to run for Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress. Alex Wong/Getty Images/Getty