- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2020

Day jobs can stink.

That’s the reality five of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are coming to grips with now that they are likely to be stuck on Capitol Hill for President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, which could start as soon as next week.

That would call them away from the campaign trail at the worst possible time, giving their rivals more room to run in the sprint to Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses.

Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, who is still searching for a breakout moment, said Thursday that he has a lot riding on a strong showing in Iowa and that to overcome his fundraising struggles he must spend as much time as possible in the state.

“So being off the field, so to speak, is a big, big, blow to our strategy to win the caucuses,” Mr. Booker said on the “AP Ground Game: Election 2020” podcast.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell informed his Republican colleagues that he expects the impeachment trial to start early next week, though he admitted it was guesswork.

If he’s correct, that could jeopardize Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, which is set to feature Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire Tom Steyer.

“If there is a trial on the 14th, then we will move the debate,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said this week on MSNBC.

Following in the footsteps of previous presidential aspirants, the five senators still in the hunt for the presidential nomination have focused a lot of time on the early primary states and missed a ton of votes in the Senate.

Mr. Booker showed up for one of more than 100 roll call votes spanning from the beginning of October through the end of December.

Over that same three-month period, Mr. Sanders was missing in action for every vote and Ms. Warren voted twice. Ms. Klobuchar also was absent a vast majority of the time, while Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado missed a couple dozen votes.

Ms. Warren vowed this week she would be at the impeachment trial.

“There are some things that are more important than politics,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, not to be there to support a particular president or a particular political party or to advance my own political interests,” she said. “I will be there if there is an impeachment trial because it is my responsibility to be there.”

The two other top contenders — Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg — will be able to keep their focus squarely on shaking hands and kissing babies in Iowa and other early battleground states.

“They kind of have that freedom,” said Bryce Smith, chairman of the Dallas County Iowa Democrats, who has endorsed Mr. Booker. “They are their own boss right now and have fewer constraints on being where they need to be or want to be to get the results they want in the election.”

The trial will test the ability of the five senators to balance their duty of being an impartial juror with their desire to camp out in front of the nearest bank of television cameras, trying to score points with primary voters who can make or break their campaigns.

Thom Hart, former chairman of the Scott County Iowa Democrats, though, said it is unrealistic to think that senators are going to be impartial given the hyperpartisan environment in Washington.

“I don’t think there is anything objective about this when you’ve got a majority leader coordinating with the White House on very fundamental questions about witnesses or no witnesses,” Mr. Hart said. “I think both Lindsey Graham and McConnell have said they have no pretense of being an impartial juror. I don’t mean to be a cynic, but I am just listening to what people are saying.”

Steffen W. Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University, said the candidates stuck in their Senate day jobs are sure to make the most of the impeachment drama.

“Politicians ALWAYS posture and get hysterical for the media and if there is impeachment trial they certainly will use that in their campaigning,” he said in an email. “But Iowa voters are mostly very experienced and well informed, so all of that will be largely ignored.”

The strongest campaigns shouldn’t suffer, Mr. Schmidt said.

“If they are not on the trail, their surrogates, tweets, live-streamed Facebook messaging are more than enough to keep moving forward in their campaign,” he said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide