Who knows what might happen if Republican officials decided to lead?
Reporters and pundits are constantly saying that in private most elected Republicans are appalled by Trump's unfitness, corruption and ignorance but they are too afraid of his supporters to challenge him.
Maybe they should consider this from 538:
[T]here’s a fair amount of political science research suggesting that voters are more tied to their parties than to their issue positions. For example, when Democratic Party leaders decided to support same-sex marriage, many Democratic voters who opposed gay marriage simply changed their position, rather than leave the party. The rise of Trump displayed the same dynamic, as many Republican voters who used to be wary of Russia and care deeply about the moral values of politicians abandoned those views to align with their party’s leader. So the increase in Democratic support for impeachment after Pelosi and more moderate Democrats got on board fits that broader pattern.
Why does it matter what exactly caused this shift in public opinion? Well, if people change their minds about something largely because of new facts, that’s fairly intuitive and not particularly surprising. Perhaps impeachment became more popular largely because Trump did something that was clearly bad and, unlike special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, fairly easy to understand.
But if impeachment got more popular largely because Democratic voters, and some independents, are taking cues from party leaders, that’s more interesting.
I would guess that it's a little bit of both. However, it seems obvious to me that plenty of rank and file Democrats look to the party leadership to decide what is possible and what isn't. When they were saying they didn't want impeachment, these trusting voters believed that they knew what they were doing and therefore supported their decision.
The parties may be different in many ways but I would guess that there are a fair number of Republicans who feel the same way about their party leadership. They trust their judgment. Normally that trust would accrue to the president but there's a fair chance that a significant minority of Republicans --- the suburban college-educated types --- who would change their support if the GOP decided to lead instead of follow. (538 took a look at some of these folks in this piece addressing this issue.)
They don't want to take a chance, of course, because they might lose their seats and that is apparently a fate worse than nuclear war to these people. But in the last week we've seen some pushback to the president on Syria especially but also some clear discomfort with the Ukraine story and especially Doral. It will be interesting to see if there is even a slight movement in the polls.
By the way:
Fox's Chris Wallace said a "well-connected" Washington Republican told him that there's a 20 percent chance enough Republicans will vote to remove President Trump from office in an impeachment trial in the Senate.