Impeachment clouds hang over home stretch of Iowa caucuses

Political Theater, Episode 107

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak as Tom Steyer looks on after the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak as Tom Steyer looks on after the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Posted January 15, 2020 at 4:37pm

This week’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa was the last chance for the significantly winnowed field to make a big impression — not just before the Feb. 3 caucuses there but also before the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins. 

Of the six Democrats onstage Tuesday night at Drake University in Des Moines, three of them — Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar — will be jurors in the upcoming trial and not free to move about the country, as the old Southwest Airlines ads went. 

A fourth, former Vice President Joe Biden, could be called as a witness. A fourth senator running who was not on the debate stage, Michael Bennet, will also be a juror. 

This is one of the nightmare scenarios for candidates in a tight race looking to pull ahead at an opportune time.

Sanders almost won the 2016 Iowa caucuses and would love to build momentum that seems to be growing for his campaign. Warren is looking to halt that momentum.

Iowa is Klobuchar’s chance to demonstrate the argument she has been making: As a daughter of Minnesota, “the Midwest is not flyover country for me,” and she can appeal to wide swaths of the electorate. 

They cannot be excited about leaving the Hawkeye State so Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang can run wild. 

So the trial, in which senators will be bound to sit in judgement of the president, throws a huge wild card into what has been a wide-open race.

CQ Roll Call politics editor Herb Jackson and I break it down in the latest Political Theater podcast: highs, lows, missed chances, seized ones, flubbed lines, tense times and all the rest. Or as Herb might say, “Woo-hoo.” Here we go.