Republicans spent much of 2018 warning that Democrats would impeach President Trump if they took control of the House.
But as the dust is settling on the midterms, only seven of the almost 50 incoming House Democrats have publicly declared their support for impeachment, adding to a significant group in the caucus (but not a majority) who are open to impeaching the president.
Virtually all of the incoming freshmen who support impeachment are from safe, blue districts. And the one Democrat who faced a real race in November, Steven Horsford, gave a full-throated endorsement of impeachment during his primary but moderated his stance for the general election.
So while few have ruled it out, and are giving themselves significant wiggle room to support impeachment depending on the outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the House Democratic caucus will enter 2019 the same way it left 2018, with a majority of members publicly opposed to impeachment.
New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most visible members of the freshmen class, backed impeachment in a CNN interview shortly after upsetting Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary.
"I would support impeachment. I think that we have the grounds to do it," she said.
"What we need to focus on is ensuring that we can, when people potentially break the law, hold everyone accountable and no person is above that law."
Massachusetts Democrat Ayanna Pressley ran in part on her zeal for impeachment as she took down another long-time incumbent, Rep. Mike Capuano, in her primary.
Texas Democrat Veronica Escobar told the Texas Tribune ahead of her primary for her deep-blue seat that she’d vote for impeachment but would like Democrats to wait for the Mueller investigation to end.
Colorado Democrat Joe Neguse said during a primary debate that “there is certainly enough evidence” to begin impeachment proceedings; Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar said she’d vote “yes” and called Trump a “tyrant” in an interview with CNN; and Minnesota Democrat Rashida Tlaib told The Hill that the 2018 elections were in part about "electing a jury that will impeach" Trump.
Former and future Rep. Steven Horsford, who won a battleground seat, initially came out in favor of impeachment during his primary, but pivoted away from that stance in the general election.
In a February interview with The Nevada Independent, Horsford said he “would support” impeachment, arguing that there are “many things that are becoming evident every day as to why he is unfit to be president and why Congress should hold him accountable.”
But in an October interview with Nevada Public Radio, Horsford said that Congress should allow Mueller “to complete his investigation,” arguing that a “key element” to impeachment is whether Trump “is found to have broken the law.”
No other Democratic candidates, running in moderate districts or for open seats, made any declarative statements supporting impeachment. Most said they want to wait until Mueller’s report is made public before deciding.
And while the freshmen class will grow depending on the outcome of a handful of races not yet called by NBC News, virtually all of those Democratic candidates are also waiting for Mueller, while the others aren’t vocally calling for impeachment either.
The group of pro-impeachment Democrats will join a vocal group of lawmakers in their own caucus, but a group that still makes up the minority.
Fifty-eight Democrats voted to advance impeachment articles against Trump last December, and an NBC News analysis of recent statements by incumbent House Democrats shows little public change in support for impeachment.
Like the candidates, many of those lawmakers have qualified their stances pending the result of the Mueller investigation.
So the spotlight will be on many of these incumbents, and new members, if and when that report is completed and made public, especially if public pressure from the party’s base continues to mount.
Exit polling showed that only 39 percent of midterm voters want to impeach Trump, compared to the 56 percent who do not. But that’s magnified by a deep partisan divide—92 percent of Democrats want Congress to impeach Trump, but just 7 percent of Republicans share that view.