President Trump’s impeachment proceedings have only been before the U.S. Senate for one day, but with four senators running for president, they are already affecting life on the ground in early voting states like New Hampshire.
For any Democrat running for president, late January is a moment when time is tight. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders acknowledged as much when he spoke to NHPR Sunday about the reality he and three of his rivals now face: stepping off the campaign trail, maybe for days at a time, to be impeachment jurors.
“Between you and me I’d rather be here, but I did swear an oath to do my job as a United States senator and that’s what I’ll do,” he said.
So, too, will every other senator vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, though that didn’t stop any of them from trying to get their messages out yesterday in New Hampshire while impeachment duty called.
The candidates’ tactics differed, but the goal was the same: get voters’ attention, even if in-person campaigning was simply not an option.
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado released a decidedly impeachment-free web ad released yesterday in which he called attention to his health care plan.
Meanwhile, the campaign for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar moved to cast her impeachment-induced absence as a proof that she’s fit for the oval office. Former New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster made that case for her yesterday at a press conference in Concord:
“The president was impeached because he put his personal political interests above his constitutional duty. Senator Klobuchar is in Washington today because she is putting her constitutional duty above politics,” Foster said.
Klobuchar is also deploying top local supporters statewide to meet voters in what the campaign is calling “office hours.”
Rich Sigel, a Klobuchar-backer who served as a top aide to former Governors Jeanne Shaheen and John Lynch, thinks having campaign surrogates with deep New Hampshire connections serves Klobuchar well.
"They are folks who can go out have conversations independently and have credibility, and necessity has really ginned up the intensity of needing to go out and do it, so they are,” he said.
Local ties were less privileged by the campaign of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren yesterday.
“I’m not shy, I just like to give people their space," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. "If they look at you and look like they are engaging, they you can engage."
Kelley had never been to New Hampshire before but was gamely working Concord’s Main Street for Warren.
When Kenney concluded a visit to a camera store, its owner, Michael St. Germain, said he was glad to have Kenney before he told reporters he doubted the mayor’s efforts here would sway a single voter.
“Probably not, though I think it shows the broad spectrum of the people who are in favor of someone,” St. Germain said.
Which is not to say Kenney didn’t connect with anyone. He and former state senator Amanda Merrill chatted warmly at a Concord coffee shop, where Merrill shared her own Philadelphia ties: Her son, she said, works for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.
Merrill, who’s endorsed Amy Klobuchar,was fresh from the Klobuchar campaign’s press conference, and wearing a bright green "Amy" sticker.
“We’re going to spring training in March; we’ve been going for the past four years, and that’s fun,” Kenney told Merrill.
But for presidential campaigns and their local backers, the next few weeks mostly promise work over fun, something that may be especially true for candidates tethered to Washington by impeachment duty.