Impeachment trial weighs on 2020 Democrats

The reality of President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE’s looming impeachment trial hit the Democratic presidential field’s senators on Friday after House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Ginsburg successor must uphold commitment to 'equality, opportunity and justice for all' Bipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg MORE (D-Calif.) signaled that she would move next week to send articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Pelosi’s announcement, made in a letter to colleagues on Friday morning, almost certainly guarantees that the five Democratic senators still running for their party’s presidential nomination will remain in Washington in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, depriving them of critical facetime with voters.

That could have palpable effects for Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 Biden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? McConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? Warren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon MORE (D-Mass.) in particular. The two remain highly competitive in Iowa and are among the candidates best positioned for top-tier finishes in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.


By taking Sanders and Warren off the campaign trail for what will likely be weeks, the impeachment trial could lend an advantage to their top rivals, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies Biden says Ginsburg successor should be picked by candidate who wins on Nov. 3 MORE and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq MORE, who are polling at or near the top of the pack in Iowa.

But three other candidates — Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill EPA delivers win for ethanol industry angered by waivers to refiners It's time for newspapers to stop endorsing presidential candidates MORE (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Next crisis, keep people working and give them raises MORE (D-Colo.) — are also banking on strong performances in the Hawkeye State to lend momentum to their presidential bids, and the impeachment trial will likely present an unwelcome obstacle.

Speaking at a fundraiser in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., on Thursday night, Klobuchar acknowledged the challenge that the impeachment trial would pose to her campaign in Iowa.

“If I am in the impeachment hearing, I’m going to need everyone on the ground in Iowa to help me,” Klobuchar said.

The impeachment trial may come with some perks for the presidential hopefuls that will act as its jurors. It will put them at the center of the closest-watched news story in the country, giving them a chance to show off their political chops before a national audience.

“This gives them an opportunity to show how strong, sharp and persuasive that they are,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSuburban moms are going to decide the 2020 election Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits The Hill's Campaign Report: 19 years since 9/11 | Dem rival to Marjorie Taylor Greene drops out | Collin Peterson faces fight of his career | Court delivers blow to ex-felon voting rights in Florida MORE (D-N.Y.), pointing to the political boost Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins Kamala Harris: Black Americans have been 'disproportionately harmed' by Trump Biden town hall draws 3.3 million viewers for CNN MORE (D-Calif.) received after her pointed line of questioning in the 2018 confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughProgressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy Senate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Trump reacts to Ginsburg's death: 'An amazing woman who led an amazing life' MORE.


“It showed her sharpness, persuasiveness, strength,” Reinish said. “She was able to create viral moment after viral moment that in no small part really positioned her at the time to be an incredibly successful candidate, who could really break through and really show who she was.”

Harris entered the presidential race as a top contender last winter. She ended her campaign last month amid dwindling poll numbers and fundraising challenges.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Hill Interview: Jerry Brown on climate disasters, COVID-19 and Biden's 'Rooseveltian moment' Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery DeJoy defends Postal Service changes at combative House hearing MORE (D-Calif.), one of Sanders’s campaign co-chairs, said he was not frustrated with Pelosi’s timing in sending the articles, saying it would not necessarily hinder the campaign.

“No, she can’t look at politics in making her determination, and I think she’s won the debate on explaining why we need witnesses to testify,” Khanna told reporters on Friday. “Look, there’s still going to be the debate, most likely on Tuesday. I don’t think the trial is going to start before then. You’re still going to have Sanders being able to go there on the weekends.”

Pelosi’s timeline for transmitting the impeachment articles to the Senate means a trial could start as soon as Wednesday. That means that a Democratic presidential debate scheduled for Tuesday will likely proceed as planned. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said earlier this week that the forum could be rescheduled if it conflicted with the impeachment trial.

It’s unclear just how long the impeachment trial will last. But there’s little doubt that it will mean spending critical time off the campaign trail, especially in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest of 2020 and one of the most crucial in the primary calendar. No Democrat since former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBarr says Ginsburg 'leaves a towering legacy' Trump reacts to Ginsburg's death: 'An amazing woman who led an amazing life' Jimmy Carter remembers Ruth Bader Ginsburg as 'a beacon of justice' MORE has won their party’s nomination without taking the top spot in the Iowa caucuses.

During the impeachment trial, the Senate will be in session six days a week. But Sanders and his rivals could still find time around the trial to hit the campaign trail, Khanna said.

“He’s going to have enough time in the state,” he said, adding that he is confident in the grassroots enthusiasm the campaign has built in Iowa and across the country.

Public polling in Iowa has been sparse in recent weeks, but recent surveys show a tight race between Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg.

A CBS News/YouGov survey released this week showed Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg tied at 23 percent, while Warren trailed in fourth place with 16 percent support. No other candidate notched double digits in that survey.

But the Senate trial could also train unwanted attention on Biden.

The impeachment proceedings began with accusations that Trump had sought to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter. And Republicans have repeatedly accused the former vice president of working to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor who had investigated an energy company that employed his son.


Biden has strongly defended his actions, saying he sought the prosecutor's ouster on behalf of the Obama administration because of concerns about corruption.

Even with their expected absence from the campaign trail, Warren and Sanders are sure to maintain a presence in Iowa. Both have massive political operations, including paid staffers and field offices, in the state, as well as the resources to fund aggressive advertising campaigns.

“[Sanders] has built an incredible amount of surrogates who will be going out for him,” Khanna said. “I expect that there will be more members of Congress endorsing him soon. He’s going to have a lot of surrogates out there as well.”

“One of the advantages of the campaign is, you know, some of our best days were when Bernie wasn’t even on the trail because of the enthusiasm and the grassroots effort after the incident he had with his heart,” he said, referring to Sanders's heart attack last year.

For the race’s underdog candidates — those with smaller budgets and dwindling poll numbers — the impeachment trial may carry a heavier toll.

Booker, who registered just 2 percent in the CBS News/YouGov Iowa poll, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press this week that even if the trial were to last just a couple weeks, it would mean missing dozens of campaign events.


“If this trial lasts two weeks, that is literally dozens of events we won’t be able to do,” Booker told the news outlet.

Even so, the candidates are resigned to their fates. They can’t skip the impeachment trial, and they have cast the historic event as part of their constitutional responsibilities.

Asked in an interview on MSNBC this week whether she was concerned by the fact that Biden would be able to remain on the campaign trail while she is stuck in Washington for the trial, Warren insisted that “some things are more important than politics.”

“I’ll be where I’m supposed to be, and that is in the impeachment trial,” she said.