Stuck in DC for impeachment, senators hold ground in Iowa

Stuck in DC for impeachment, senators hold ground in Iowa
© Greg Nash

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Since President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE’s impeachment trial kicked off nearly two weeks ago, three key senators in the Democratic field have been cooped up in Washington and unable to campaign across Iowa ahead of Monday's caucuses.

Fortunately for them, their time away doesn't seem to have mattered.

Since the trial started Jan. 21, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight MORE (I-Vt.) has seen his campaign on the upswing in Iowa, taking over the lead in multiple polls. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots MORE (D-Minn.) has ticked up in the polls and has hit double digits in three straight surveys, while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-Mass.) remains firmly in the pack, though her support has dropped slightly in that time.


As for the remaining two top-tier candidates, the support levels for former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? Romney warns Trump: Don't interfere with coronavirus relief oversight MORE and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE have remained relatively static despite both candidates having barnstormed the state throughout.

“Given the importance of social media and tele town halls, technology, all that kind of stuff, the folks who’ve been in D.C. during impeachment, they were able to stay in touch with a lot of folks in Iowa. I think that’s been lost on some folks,” said Rep. Dave LoebsackDavid (Dave) Wayne LoebsackRep. Andy Kim to endorse Buttigieg Stuck in DC for impeachment, senators hold ground in Iowa Buttigieg picks up Iowa congressman's endorsement ahead of caucuses MORE (D-Iowa), a Buttigieg supporter. “They haven’t been here physically as much as they would have liked to been, but they’ve still been able to stay in touch with their folks.” 

Since the start of the trial, Biden and Buttigieg have spent all but two days in the Hawkeye State. However, having set up shop in the state has not led to a rise in the polls.

“It does seem as if all of the coverage of impeachment has frozen the presidential race in place,” one Biden supporter said.
They added that The Des Moines Register didn’t lead with the caucuses on multiple occasions this week. In fact, Saturday’s front page featured the Senate GOP defeating the push for additional witnesses.

"I was always very skeptical about the conventional wisdom that the impeachment trial would be this major detriment for Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar because they couldn’t physically be in Iowa," the Biden supporter said. "To the contrary. I think I saw more of Klobuchar on TV during the trial being interviewed than in any previous point.”

The Minnesota Democrat has done a total of 27 national TV hits along with 20 local media interviews since the trial kicked off. 


Along with being a constant presence on the airwaves, Klobuchar held three tele-town halls — two aimed at Iowans across the state and another for senior citizens. More than 35,500 Iowans tuned into those, according to a campaign memo released Friday morning.

All three campaigns have relied heavily on surrogates in that time as well, with Sanders and Warren holding events continuously featuring high profile lawmakers, celebrities and their own families.

Three members of 'the squad' — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTexas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Undocumented aliens should stay away as COVID-19 rages in the US The Southern Poverty Law Center and yesterday's wars MORE (D-Minn.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing .5B in emergency grants for the homeless MORE (D-Mich.) — stumped for Sanders on Thursday and Friday.

Their fourth member of the squad, Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMaryland Legislative Black Caucus pushes for state to release racial breakdown of coronavirus impact Pressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (D-Mass.), got a standing ovation from voters in Ames, where she headlined a late rally for Warren.

Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Deb HaalandDebra HaalandPressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus We must demand our government decrease emissions from federal public lands Asian Pacific American Caucus vice chair 'shocked and dismayed' GOP leader referred to 'Chinese coronavirus' MORE (D-N.M.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyThe Memo: Virus crisis upends political world Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 5G rivals to Huawei | Amazon, eBay grilled over online counterfeits | Judge tosses Gabbard lawsuit against Google | GOP senator introduces bill banning TikTok on government devices Lawmakers grill Amazon, eBay executives over online counterfeits MORE (D-Ill.) and Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinThe COVID-19 pandemic calls for the most urgent possible action US plan warns coronavirus pandemic could last 18 months: report A disaster for diplomacy and the Zionist dream MORE (D-Mich.), former HUD Secretary Julián Castro and Warren’s husband Bruce Mann — accompanied by the family dog — also hopped around the state for the Massachusetts senator.

“This is an opportunity for us to highlight the new faces of this campaign, to show the breadth and depth of surrogates,” said Misty Rebik, Sanders’s Iowa state director. 

But the senators’ absence has clearly dimmed turnout, though that is set to change as the Senate passed a resolution on Friday paving the way for President Trump's acquittal. The chamber will reconvene on Monday, freeing up the 2020 candidates to campaign in Iowa over the weekend.

Pressley addressed a few dozen voters in a cavernous hall on the campus of Iowa State University, a fraction of the crowd Warren herself would have drawn.

“It’s hard if you’ve got two favorites to pick the one you haven’t seen," said Rob Sand, the state auditor, who remains uncommitted.