The complaints about this from Democrats today remind me of the huffing and puffing last weekend from Senate Republicans over Adam Schiff’s “heads on pikes” quote. (He was quoting someone else, actually. But anyway.) In both cases we have a participant in the impeachment process committing the terrible faux pas of acknowledging plainly how that process is driven by politics, not a good-faith interest in the truth. Schiff dared to suggest that Republican senators might vote to acquit Trump because they’re terrified of ending up on his sh*t list, which pretend-offended them despite the obvious truth of his statement.
Now here’s Ernst daring to admit that Trump and the GOP are interested in the Bidens’ corruption not (just) because they’re interested in corruption but because they’re interested in the electoral threat posed by Joe Biden. That happens to be exactly what House Dems have accused Trump of in trying to swing a quid pro quo with Ukraine, and which, ironically, they’ve now inadvertently enabled by forcing an impeachment trial on the subject. Trump’s going to use the platform they’ve handed him to damage Biden ahead of the election. And of course Democrats are using the platform to try to damage Trump ahead of the same election, having known from the start that there’s zero chance the Senate will vote to remove him. This pageant is and always has been aimed by both sides at swing voters watching at home. But you’re not supposed to say that if you’re involved in it.
Impeachment is a political process and a cynical one at that. Ernst is just unusually candid about it.
ERNST: "IA caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Demcaucus goers. Will they be supporting VP Biden at this point?"
— Alan He (@alanhe) January 28, 2020
Biden tried to leverage the outrage over her statement on Twitter last night, tweeting, “Iowa caucus-goers take note. Joni Ernst just spilled the beans. She and Donald Trump are scared to death I’ll be the nominee. On Feb. 3rd, let’s make their day.” His rapid response guy added, “Thank you for reminding us who you’re terrified of @realDonaldTrump having to run against.” That’s their best play under the circumstances — treat her comment as an admission of his superior electability, or at least hope that Iowa Democrats will be so annoyed by it that they’ll try to spite her by choosing Joe in the end.
Doesn’t look good for him, though. Look at that late break for Bernie in the RCP average in Iowa:
Pretty clear what’s happening there. Biden’s polling began to pick up two weeks ago as Pete Buttigieg’s began to slide, suggesting that centrist Dems who were on the fence between the two have begun to tilt towards the name brand in the race. But then the same thing began happening on the left last week, with Warren suddenly fading as Bernie began to climb. He’s up nearly eight points in six days and still trending upwards as I write this. Right now it’s a race to see whose support will collapse more completely on caucus night, Warren’s or Buttigieg’s, with Bernie and Biden the respective beneficiaries.
Here’s Jon Tester, who called Ernst’s comments “disgusting” in an interview last night, laying into her again today on CNN. In lieu of an exit question, go read this Politico story about how a lobbyist made a sweetheart deal with Joe Biden’s brother on some land in the Caribbean in 2005. “Joe Biden, swamp creature” will be an effective line of attack for Trump in the general election given how demoralized Berniebros will be by Sanders’s defeat. Assuming Biden somehow holds Bernie off in the primaries, I mean.
Sen. Jon Tester says he’s “very disappointed” in Sen. Joni Ernst’s suggestion that the impeachment trial could damage Joe Biden's campaign in Iowa. “If people are using this for political purposes to try to rail against their opponents…shame on them.” https://t.co/p9DrqUaXDM pic.twitter.com/rlFeFpjtIK
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 28, 2020