Perhaps the question beyond the headline has less to do with Biden and more to do with the preferences of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It’s worth asking if Pelosi intentionally dragged her feet on sending the impeachment articles to the Senate so as to throw a wrench in the plans of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren? As it stands today if the impeachment trial begins in the Senate next Tuesday, Jan. 21, that leaves less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses on Monday, Feb. 3.
Between now and then, there is an awful lot of important time where presidential candidates would be spending every waking hour on the ground in Iowa shaking hands, visiting homes, and spreading their message.
With the way things are shaping up, the senators will be stuck in DC, while former vice president Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg can live in the Hawkeye state:
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg will blitz Iowa before the state kicks off the party’s nominating contest on Feb. 3, while their key rivals will be largely unable to campaign because they must sit as Senate jurors in Republican President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Aides to Biden and Buttigieg, locked in a tight four-way battle with U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, would not comment on the unprecedented advantage next week’s Senate trial presents them.
Yet newly released schedules reveal an intense on-the-ground push by both candidates in the final stretch in Iowa, while Sanders, Warren and another senator, Amy Klobuchar, will miss most remaining campaign days to participate in the impeachment trial, which is expected to begin on Tuesday.
A senior aide to former Vice President Biden, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the campaign has not recalibrated its Iowa strategy because of the Senate trial.
But their No. 1 priority is getting Biden talking to as many voters as possible in Iowa in the final days of what polls suggest is a virtual tie among the four.
You couldn’t whiteboard out a more optimal scenario for the last few weeks of a campaign than to have your chief rivals sidelined off the campaign trail up to and perhaps beyond the actual day of caucusing. What on earth was Pelosi thinking when she dragged her feet back in November and December to the point where the impeachment trial in the Senate could be detrimental to her own party’s candidates?
Warren, Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar are all working feverishly to figure out how they can stay in DC, where they’re required to be for the trial, and also keep some kind of presence in Iowa one-thousand miles away:
Warren’s campaign has said they are considering remote appearances and events hosted by key supporters or family members.
Sanders is weighing weekend trips and remote appearances at Iowa events. U.S. Congress members and fellow liberal firebrands Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are among the possible supporters Sanders may use in his place, his campaign has said.
Klobuchar, who capped off a rise in the Iowa polls with another strong televised debate performance on Tuesday night, will also tap proxies such as her husband, she has said.
The three senators also hope they might also get a visibility boost if the Senate impeachment proceedings are widely watched on national television.
Weekend trips are still viable, of course, but there aren’t many weekends left if the trial starts next week and drags on. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, equally aware of the situation for the Democratic candidates, probably sees no harm in forcing them to sit in DC and split their attention between campaigning and their Senate duties.
With all this being so, you have to ask if there was a motive behind Pelosi’s scheduling and delay tactics. Certainly, she’s aware of the primary and aware that several of her party’s candidates are sitting US Senators. Is there a slight chance she’s tickled with letting Biden have Iowa to himself for a few weeks while his opponents must make appearances remotely or hope Iowans tune in to impeachment coverage on TV?
Some Republicans aren’t holding back thoughts on the question, according to Business Insider:
GOP leaders say Pelosi is attempting to boost former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 chances by pushing the Senate impeachment trial later into primary season, hurting Biden’s top competitors, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who will need to pause campaigning in early states to sit through the trial in Washington.
McCarthy said Pelosi is intentionally “clearing the decks for Joe Biden” and “keeping Bernie Sanders at bay,” calling the strategy her “dirty little secret.”
“Iowa caucus is on Feb 3. Bernie Sanders is in first place. What this does is, this benefits Joe Biden,” McCarthy said in a Sunday interview with Fox News.
It’s in McCarthy’s interest to fan flames of division between factions of the Democratic Party, but why would Pelosi leave the door wide open for the criticism? Fans of Bernie Sanders have been angry for years over the way he was treated in 2016, sidelined by a DNC that was in the pocket of Hillary Clinton, and then relegated as a “non-serious” contender for the nomination both then and now.
If Biden ends up victorious in Iowa, this issue will go on to haunt the process, especially if a Senate trial bleeds into the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, which is not out of the question.