Impeachment trial takes vulnerable senators off the campaign trail

Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Doug Jones' Senate campaign is holding an event on Friday, but the Alabama Democrat won't be there. Instead, Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama, is hosting the forum on women in leadership in Birmingham.

Jones, the most vulnerable senator in 2020, will be in the Senate chamber for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, alternating between blue and red felt-tipped pens as he takes notes on opening arguments. Sitting with him will be the rest of his colleagues who face competitive races, either in November or sooner in party primaries.

The most immediate impact of the Senate trial is on the Democratic senators running for president, who are stuck in the nation's capital less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Vulnerable senators are stuck too, although with more than 10 months until Election Day, being stuck in the chamber may not hurt their campaigns.

It doesn't necessarily help, either.

"The one thing you can never get back is time," said one Democratic operative who has worked on Senate races.

Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also said impeachment takes attention away from other issues that could sway persuadable voters.


"There's not a poll that shows anyone's up for grabs on this," Jesmer said. "I think it's going to be a frustrating couple weeks."

The trial could be more of a pressing issue for Republicans, who are on defense this cycle. Of the 10 most vulnerable senators in 2020, seven are Republicans and three are Democrats.

"Democratic challengers have a big upper hand right now," said one GOP operative working on a high profile Senate race.

But Jesmer and GOP consultant Josh Holmes dismissed the idea that a trial happening this early in the election cycle would have a tangible impact on campaigns.


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