Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE faces a challenge but also an opportunity with what’s likely to be a full impeachment trial in the Senate of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE.
Biden is already a major character in the House impeachment inquiry, which centers on charges that Trump pressed Ukraine for politically motivated investigations of Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
If Trump is impeached, which increasingly seems inevitable after last week’s House vote on procedures for the inquiry, it would lead to a Senate trial where several of Biden’s rivals in the Democratic presidential race will sit as jurors.
There are obvious benefits to Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE if Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) are stuck in a Senate impeachment trial in Washington in the weeks ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.
“Biden might have the best of both worlds,” one ally of the vice president said. “While [the senators] sit as jurors in Washington, he can be making the case about Trump’s abuse of power out where caucus and primary voters live, and he can present himself as a calm, mature, grown-up alternative to the mess in the Oval Office and the food fight in Washington.”
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Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg are the top four candidates in polls of Iowa, a state the Biden campaign has downplayed to an extent.
Warren has a strong campaign operation in the Hawkeye State and has building momentum, while Buttigieg is on the rise and is trying to cast himself as a centrist rival to Biden if voters lose confidence in the former vice president.
There are risks for Biden with a Senate impeachment trial. Anger with Trump is driving the Democratic electorate, and the trial would give Warren, Sanders and other senators still in the race — Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (Minn.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (Calif.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSome realistic solutions for income inequality Democratic senators kneel during moment of silence for George Floyd 21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests MORE (Colo.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (N.J.) — a high-profile spotlight to capitalize upon.
“This is a real problem for Joe Biden,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.
“During the Senate trial, Warren and Sanders will be at ground zero during the lead-up to Iowa and New Hampshire while Biden will be on the outside looking in.”
“This is ironic since Biden’s son, Hunter will figure prominently in the proceedings,” Bannon added, referring to the whistleblower report that launched the impeachment proceeding after Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son. “Democratic voters in both states will be focused more on events in Washington than they are campaigning in their own backyard.”
Biden allies say they are keenly aware of the problem and conversations have begun to think of the best strategy to prevent the former vice president from being an afterthought in the process.
The longtime Biden ally recommended Biden deliver major speeches at universities such as Drake in Iowa to “lay out the substantive case on impeachment and within those speeches remind people not just how he approached this decision but what kind of president he would be.”
“I’d also have him show that he can be president,” the ally, adding that Biden should be in settings where voters can see him talking about health care and education and the economy “so that the gravity of the moment fits the weight of his gravitas.”
“It’s an opportunity to stand out, and he can do it while being supportive of what [the other candidates] are doing in the Senate,” the ally continued.
If the Senate trial ends as many expect with an acquittal, it could also play to Biden’s benefit, the ally said. A two-thirds majority vote of those present in the Senate is required to convict, and the GOP holds 53 seats in the Senate.
The ally said Biden could remind people that the best way to get Trump out of the White House is to defeat him on Election Day.
Surveys conducted by The New York Times and Siena College released on Monday show Biden ahead of Trump in battleground states the president won in 2016.
The polls show Biden leading Trump by an average of 2 points across six states that went for Trump during the last presidential cycle. Biden can also use the poll to show that he still remains the favorite in swing states. Trump leads Warren by two points in the surveys and he is neck-and-neck with Sanders in the polls.
Still, Biden’s messaging around impeachment has been inconsistent. Even though he was at the heart of the inquiry, he initially refused to call for impeachment, allowing his campaign rivals to claim much of the spotlight on the issue.
Allies and donors complained that the former vice president wasn’t owning the narrative, causing Biden to also call for impeachment.
Last month Biden quipped to an audience that he was “the only reason” an impeachment inquiry had actually happened.
“I may be the last guy that publicly called for impeachment, but I’m the only reason there is impeachment going on,” he said at the United Food and Commercial Workers Union presidential forum.
Biden needs to continue to remind voters of that, said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.
“He keeps talking about the dangers of the Trump presidency from the campaign trail and from the perspective of someone who has been victimized by him,” Zelizer said. “This is how he turns the ongoing smear of Biden-Ukraine into a source of strength.”