Republican leaders and legal experts have been inconsistent in their claims over whether or not the president and his party intended to leverage false allegations of misconduct in Ukraine against Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.
In December, the GOP’s lead counsel in the House impeachment inquiry Steve Castor disagreed with the notion that President Trump had pushed for an investigation in Ukraine in order to hurt Biden’s shot at the White House in 2020. Other Republicans, including Senator John Kennedy and Trump’s own legal team, have frequently argued that a notoriously corrupt president simply wanted to clean up duplicity in a country more or less immaterial in the big picture of American foreign policy — a claim undermined by the fact that three of Trump’s surrogates are either facing federal charges or are the reported target of a federal investigation for their actions in Kiev.
But in a break from the impeachment trial, Joni Ernst quite explicitly set the record straight. Referring to the defense team’s opening statements depicting the Bidens as America’s number-one family for nepotism and corruption, the Iowa senator pondered how the day’s developments would inform caucus-goers in her home state:
“Iowa caucuses, folks. Iowa 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 Democratic caucus goers. Will the be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?”
“Senator Ernst just said the quiet part out loud,” Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. “Republicans are terrified that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, defeat Donald Trump, and help progressives up and down the ballot win seats in the House and take the Senate.”
There’s one glaring flaw to Ernst’s proposition that the impeachment process will slash Biden’s support in the first-in-the-nation caucus: Americans aren’t watching the Senate trial of President Trump. According to TVNewser, Nielsen ratings for Wednesday and Thursday of last week showed that ABC, CBS, and NBC lost a total of 3 million viewers each day by broadcasting the historic political event, instead of normal daytime soaps like The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital.