The Trump impeachment trial has begun, and senators from both sides of the aisle are making their arguments in favor or versus the president’s removal. It will be an intense exchange of arguments, facts, and spins over these next weeks during a pivotal time for some of the senators. With the Iowa caucus on the horizon, they will be prevented from conducting their respective campaigns in the Hawkeye State.
The reason: all senators, who perform the role of the jury during the trial, are subject to attendance. It is not yet conceivable to predict how long the entire process will take. While the majority of Republicans are inclined to conclude the trial sooner rather than later, the Democrats seek a detailed process with witness testimony and subpoenas – despite the detriment it might pose on Democratic presidential candidates and their prospects during the first votes in states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.
In just two weeks, Iowa will once again initiate the Democratic race for the presidency. The caucus has traditionally been a reliable indicator for success, even though there are comparatively few delegates votes to obtain in the sparsely populated state. Ordinarily, it would be even more critical to increase campaign appearances. However, Warren, Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Benett, the affected senators in the race, are hindered by the impeachment, which could make any appearances before election day inconceivable.
Sanders is particularly irritated by the idea of being stuck in Washington in the next few weeks. “I would rather be in Iowa, I would rather be in New Hampshire, Nevada, and so on,” Sanders said in an interview. Nonetheless, the decision to impeach Trump and to conduct the trial at this stage was not only critical but necessary, the Democratic senators continue to assure these days.
The timing alone is a problem for them. Some Warren or Sanders supporters even sense a conspiracy, which suggests that Speaker Pelosi deliberately waited to submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate to put the extreme left in her party at a disadvantage during this particularly important campaign phase and thus strengthen establishment favorite, Joe Biden.
While the latter appears preposterous at first sight, the instant effect of the trial is apparent: Biden and Pete Buttigieg, who is also a moderate, will have free rein in Iowa. Biden just concluded a two-day swing across the state. However, a significant advantage for Biden is unlikely. Due to the nature of the charges against Trump, the impeachment does not only affect the senators, but Biden also, who, via his son, Hunter, will be brought up frequently during the trial this week.
Biden’s campaign efforts in the middle of the trial might thus be semi-marginalized in the upcoming weeks; however, his name, most importantly, will remain a national focal point. Meanwhile, Buttigieg, who is not linked to the impeachment, could fall off the radar in Iowa and nationally.
However, Sanders, Warren, Bennett, and Klobuchar are not inevitably at a disadvantage due to their presence on Capitol Hill, either. They all have the opportunity to shine while performing their constitutional obligations in the Senate and can exhibit themselves as powerful and dedicated adversaries of Trump – live and every day on all the major networks. Moreover, while they will not be able to appear in Iowa for now physically, their surrogates, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Sanders, will deliver their message and campaign for him in Iowa instead. Klobuchar, Warren, and Bennett have made similar arrangements with their respective surrogates.
The impeachment is thus not necessarily a significant obstacle for the senators. Joe Biden, however, is the only candidate who might be able to benefit from both: obtaining an edge in Iowa, while also staying in the national news through the impeachment. One should thus not be startled if Biden managed to solidify his lead in Iowa before the first votes being cast.