Several U.S. senators who are Democratic primary contenders, but must be in Washington for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, say they’re not frustrated with having to be away from the campaign trail as the Iowa caucuses approach.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), have to spend six days a week on Capitol Hill to serve as jurors in the impeachment trial. Meanwhile, the Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and the New Hampshire primary comes about a week later.
While the trial lasted until about 9:30 p.m. local time on Jan. 22, it was far more grueling a day earlier, as senators were forced to stay in the Senate chamber until the early-morning hours to hash out ground rules for the proceedings. The lawmakers also are prohibited from using smartphones and other electronic devices during the trial, which means they can’t communicate with campaign staffers or send out Twitter messages to supporters.
In recent interviews, the four senators were asked where they would rather be: Washington or Iowa? None of the senators vying for their party’s nomination said they would rather be campaigning on the ground.
“This is my responsibility,” Warren told the Washington Examiner on Jan. 22. “I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and that’s why I’m here. Some things are more important than politics.”
“My focus today is on a monumental moment in American history: the impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” Sanders told NBC on Jan. 21.
“Tomorrow, I will be in an impeachment trial,” Sanders told supporters a day earlier in Des Moines, Iowa, according to The New York Times. “How long it lasts? Honestly don’t know. I am not going to be able to be here as much as I would like. So you guys are going to have to carry the ball.”
The campaign for Sanders announced on Jan. 21 that he would have to cancel at least one campaign stop in Iowa because of the impeachment trial. Instead, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will be deployed to “host campaign events in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Ames on Friday and Saturday” before Sanders joins her at an Iowa event on Jan. 26—his only day off during the impeachment trial.
“This is my constitutional duty,” Klobuchar told reporters in the Capitol. “That is the fact.”
NBC News reported that she took a 6 a.m. flight on Jan. 21 to return to Washington from Iowa.
“I am here doing my constitutional duty; the people of Iowa understand that,” Klobuchar told the Examiner, adding that she has campaign staffers standing in for her. “Having people on the ground that are people that see folks in the supermarket or at work—that matters.”
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told reporters on Jan. 21 that he’s seeking to gain an advantage over his opponents who are tied up with impeachment.
“Look, realistically, a lot of people are going to make up their minds in the last few days in each of the early states and here in Iowa, too,” Buttigieg said. “So we’re going to make the most of every moment that we have on the ground.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t appear to relish his on-the-ground advantage, but said he wasn’t paying attention to the impeachment proceedings.
“I didn’t get to see it all because I was out here campaigning in Iowa, doing town meetings,” he told MSNBC on Jan. 22. “But what I saw the reruns of, it was—I have a great respect and reverence for the Senate, for real.”
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Biden is leading in Iowa at 21 percent. He’s followed by Sanders at 17.3 percent, Warren at 16.7 percent, Buttigieg at 16.3 percent, and Klobuchar at 8.3 percent.