Democrat Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey officially announced his decision to switch political parties and pledged his support for President Donald Trump on Thursday.
“I believe that this is just a better fit for me,” Van Drew told reporters on Thursday at the White House. “This is who I am. It’s who I always was, but there was more tolerance of moderate Democrats, of Blue Dog Democrats, of Conservative Democrats, and I think that’s going away.”
Van Drew met with Trump in the Oval Office together with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss his decision.
Trump called his decision a “big deal” noting that it had been about ten years since a member of Congress switched parties to become a Republican.
“It’s a very big deal,” McCarthy agreed. “Because he’s going from the majority to the minority. It normally doesn’t go that way.”
“Yeah, but he’s very smart because he knows it’s not going to be the minority for long,” Trump replied. “I have a feeling we’re going to do very well in 2020.”
Van Drew noted that one of his political heroes continued to be former President Ronald Reagan.
“He said, ‘I didn’t leave my party, my party left me,” Van Drew said. “I’m saying the same thing.”
The former Democrat pledged his support for Trump in the next election.
“You have my undying support, and always,” Van Drew said.
“By the way, same way,” Trump replied shaking Van Drew’s hand and adding, “I’m endorsing him.”
Vice President Mike Pence praised Van Drew for being a strong voice in the impeachment debate.
“I just want to tell you how grateful we are for your voice of reason and common sense in the days leading up to your decision,” Pence said. “You showed personal and political courage and I know the people of your district will be as grateful as we are today.”
Van Drew voted against the two articles of impeachment against Trump during the House of Representatives vote on Wednesday along with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN). Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) also joined Peterson and Van Drew to vote against the second article of impeachment.
McCarthy also thanked Van Drew and welcomed him to the Republican Party.
“If there’s anyone else that feels like you if there are other people out there that feel that this new socialist Democrat wing of the party has left them behind, join with us,” he said.
Van Drew explained that he was told by a state Democrat official in a meeting that he could not vote against impeachment or that he would be destroyed politically, which prompted his decision.
“That kind of hurt and it kind of made me think a little bit,” he said.
He also said that he was attacked by progressive Democrats in New Jersey for supporting the idea of flying the American flag without restrictions and supporting the phrase “In God We Trust.”
“That’s a very Republican thing, by the way,” Trump replied.
Van Drew said that he was a capitalist and a believer in American exceptionalism, something that Democrats were increasingly critical of. He also criticized the proposed “new green deal” by radical elements in the party.
“I believe with what you’re doing with the economy, it’s a better stronger economy,” he said to Trump.