Donald Trump keeps flogging the Hunter Biden saga to cast President Joe Biden as the head of a crime family. Earlier this week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy floated the idea of moving forward with impeachment proceedings over the matter.

But as the Hunter Biden case came to a head in recent days — with Biden pleading not guilty to tax and gun charges on Wednesday as a plea deal fell apart — some prominent Republicans were questioning the effectiveness of going after the president’s son on the issue, at all.

McCarthy himself tempered comments the day before that suggested an imminent impeachment inquiry, clarifying that Republicans merely “could” move forward with one. And Republicans seeking the presidential nomination are mostly shying away from the younger Biden’s legal and personal issues, commenting on them in passing, but opting instead to hit Biden on the economy and foreign policy.

“I think when we get home, the focus is the economy, the border, crime,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “These are the issues that matter and these are the issues we’re talking about.”

Hunter Biden, he said, is a “focus in D.C.,” not everywhere else.

The new round of Hunter Biden headlines is wrenching open a division within the GOP about how to prosecute the case against Biden ahead of 2024. Former President Donald Trump lamented the leveling of a “traffic ticket instead of a death sentence” against Hunter Biden, and he and others are calling for the president’s impeachment. But a vocal segment of the party is signaling trepidation, worried about focusing too heavily on a political scandal and not pocketbook issues.

“If anybody deserves to be impeached, I believe it’s Biden for what he has done. At the same time, we’ve got to look to 2024,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas). “We’ve got to get this White House back. We’ve got to get the Senate back.”

He added, “If I was running for president I would focus on what I can do for 2024 and get this economy going again.”

The debate about how hard to go after Biden over his son’s legal problems has been stirring inside the party. During a briefing with reporters on Monday night, David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, reviewed polling the group had conducted this month that included a question about whether Biden should acknowledge having a seventh grandchild. Hunter Biden initially denied paternity of his 4-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother in Arkansas, before recently settling a child support case. The president has refused to acknowledge the child publicly.

McIntosh, with a slight chuckle, described the matter merely as a “family issue,” saying the Club decided to “throw it in and see what people say.” The internal poll, he said, found that 69 percent of respondents said Biden should acknowledge his granddaughter, while 63 percent said it was a problem that illegal drugs had mysteriously appeared in the White House.

“I was a little surprised it was that high,” he said.

Still, McIntosh didn’t make a case for Republicans going all-in on messaging about Hunter Biden or the “Biden Crime Family,” a term adopted by far-right influencers and members of Congress.

Asked whether the GOP should lean harder into Hunter Biden, McIntosh, a former Republican congressman, hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said.

In a sign that strategists see other arguments as more effective with voters, Republicans aren’t putting money behind Hunter Biden attacks.

A POLITICO review of political ads on air and digital platforms over the last three months showed that only one candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, has spent any money on the Hunter Biden line of criticism — and it was just $907, for a digital ad in late June criticizing the plea deal, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm.

Virtually no one else in the conservative thought sphere is bothering to put money there, either. A review of television and digital advertisements that have run this year shows that the only national conservative group paying for Hunter Biden messaging is Judicial Watch, which has spent less than $3,000 on a digital ad.

Instead, the Republican candidates and their aligned super PACs are running ads on Biden’s and Democrats’ handling of the economy, energy and education policies. Collectively, the GOP field has spent $57 million to date on television advertisements, none of which so far have invoked allegations of corruption against the Biden family.

Twenty-five years ago, despite public opinion at the time leaning against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, House Republicans moved forward with the effort and anticipated picking up as many as 20 seats in the 1998 midterms; instead, the House GOP lost several, though still holding on to its majority.

Eight years ago, the House GOP’s two-year, multi-million dollar investigation into the Benghazi attack and allegations of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton loomed over her 2016 presidential bid. But in a final report released several months before the November election, no wrongdoing or evidence of misconduct could be pinned on Clinton.

The current Hunter Biden focus “just smells like Benghazi,” said Republican strategist Mike Madrid. “Republicans trying desperately to make a story. It’s always, ‘We’ve got a witness coming, we’ve got more coming.’ It’s always next week. It’s like a soap opera, ‘Tune in next week.’”

An Ipsos/Reuters poll from June suggested Republicans may have reason to be cautious about the salience of Hunter Biden. The poll found that half of Americans believe that Hunter Biden was receiving favorable treatment from federal prosecutors because of his father. But 60 percent of Americans — including 59 percent of those identifying as independents — agreed that Biden is being a “good father” by supporting his son through legal troubles.

Pressed on Fox News on Tuesday night about McCarthy’s impeachment suggestion, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Congress would be “absolutely within their rights” to do so. And Nikki Haley on Wednesday morning gave a similar answer when she appeared on the conservative cable network for an interview, saying Congress needs to “go and look at the evidence.”

A spokesperson for Haley, Nachama Soloveichik, said afterward that issues surrounding Biden’s son, however, are not Haley’s top emphasis on the campaign trail.

“She’s leading with her policies, like how to combat China, not Hunter Biden,” Soloveichik said.

Even Ramaswamy, who has been vocal about the need to investigate possible corruption by Biden and his son, has stopped short of calling for an impeachment inquiry. Through a spokesperson, Ramaswamy did not respond to a request for comment about whether Biden should be subject to one.

Republicans aren’t foreclosing on the possibility of Hunter Biden becoming a major issue in 2024. McIntosh said it could be if facts eventually show damning financial activity related to Biden’s influence as vice president.

But even then, how much it would resonate with voters is unclear.

“Do they look at Donald Trump, with nuclear codes, as worse than Joe Biden having a conversation with Burisma?” Madrid said of independent voters. “Neither of them matter as much to independents as, ‘Does a woman have a right to abortion services?’”

“I just don’t think that these stories penetrate into public opinion the way that they used to,” he added. “They really haven’t in modern times, since at least 1998.”

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