WASHINGTON — Less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, Democratic presidential candidates should be finalizing plans for campaign blitzes in the state with the nation’s first nominating contest.
Instead, five 2020 contenders are wondering how often they’ll be able to set foot there at all, with senators preparing to sit as jurors in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which is expected to begin sometime this month.
The Senate has not yet set rules or a schedule for the trial, but many senators, including some of those running for the Democratic presidential nomination, believe it will look something like Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. Senators met for the trial every afternoon, six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from Jan. 7 to Feb. 12.
A Trump trial lasting that long has the potential to disrupt campaigning in both Iowa (which votes Feb. 3) and New Hampshire (which votes Feb. 11).
Of the five senator-candidates — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado — Sanders appears to be the best positioned to balance his senatorial duties with campaigning.
Sanders’ war chest, including his field-leading $34.5 million haul in the last quarter of 2019, allows him flexibility that other contenders can’t match — including the use of private jets to ferry him back and forth for late rallies in early states.
“They’re not going to be meeting at night [for the trial], so we can obviously fly from D.C. to states and hold events in the evening and fly back, you know, so he can be back in the morning to do his work in the Senate,” Sanders campaign adviser Jeff Weaver told NBC News.
“He’s an energetic candidate,” Weaver added. “He has a very vigorous schedule, and, you know, he can do that.”
The other top Senate candidate, Warren, has been coy about her campaign plans during a trial, but she shares similar advantages to Sanders, although on a smaller scale, with healthy fundraising and several potentially high-value surrogates like Reps. Ayanna Presley and Joseph Kennedy of Massachusetts. After dropping out of the race last week, Julian Castro endorsed Warren on Monday, giving her a strong surrogate who is already well known in the state and who could campaign for her during the trial.