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Impeachment is scrambling 2020 campaigning. Iowans don't think it will matter much

David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Cydney Kelley drove two hours southwest from Cedar Falls on a frigid Sunday morning to a middle school gymnasium here to see Elizabeth Warren -- perhaps her last opportunity to catch the presidential candidate before the state's February caucuses.

"I'm worried she won't be making it back to our area since she'll be in D.C. for most of the next two weeks," said Kelley, who is still deciding between Warren and another senator, Amy Klobuchar. "If she comes next weekend, she'll probably only be here a day or two."

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is forcing 2020 Democratic campaigns -- and voters -- to adjust their plans for the final two-week stretch to the Iowa caucuses. The Senate proceedings, which got underway Tuesday, threaten to sideline a trio of major contenders from the campaign trail: Sens. Bernie Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar.

It's a unique predicament in the run-up to the lead-off nominating contest that's known for late-breaking swings of momentum. Two of the three most recent reputable polls show the top four candidates separated by only single digits, and surveys indicate more than half of caucusgoers remain persuadable, adding to the volatility.

But while campaigns have drawn up contingency plans, Iowa Democrats aren't overly worried about the void. After all, they've been living with these faces for months, if not years, by now.

"At this point, we have political fatigue in Iowa, I would say," said Jill Gilbert, a devout Warren supporter from West Des Moines who says she still gets calls from the campaign even though she's fully committed to the Massachusetts senator.

 

The impeachment trial is scheduled to run six days a week from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. That means instead of spending their days fielding questions from voters and snapping selfies, these candidates will be stuck in jury duty on the Senate floor, largely seated in silence.

The senators' campaigns plan to deploy surrogates and possibly utilize tele-town halls and digital livestreams to make up for their candidates' absence. Warren is tapping Julian Castro and his brother, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, for events in Iowa, and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin along with Massachusetts Reps. Joe Kennedy and Jim McGovern for stops in New Hampshire.

Sanders has New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slated for events in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Ames through the weekend.

Klobuchar is enlisting her husband and daughter to visit party meetings and colleges and universities. Minnesota Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips along with gold medalist USA Curling coach Phill Drobnick will also host house parties on her behalf.

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