Some impeachment-watchers theorize that one of the reasons Nancy Pelosi delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate is because she knew a Senate trial would take Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren off the campaign trail during a key period — as well as Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, and, while he was still in the race, Cory Booker. The theory is that Pelosi sees Biden or Buttigieg as a safer bet and wants to subtly sabotage the candidates who are further on the left. Right-of-center voices are a lot more enthusiastic about this theory than left-of-center voices. Democrats probably cringe at the thought that the party establishment is unfairly messing with Sanders in a presidential primary for the second straight cycle.
Whatever Pelosi intended, the schedule is going to work out really badly for Sanders and Warren. The trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday, January 21. The Senate will be in session six days a week, and while the precise hours might be a bit flexible, they’re going to run from the morning until the end of the working day. Sanders might be able to race back and forth to and from Iowa in private jets — take a moment to digest that irony — but this means he’ll probably be limited to one or two evening events before flying back to Washington. During the day, the senators are effectively muted. They will be required to remain seated, are instructed to not speak to the senators next to them, and they will not be allowed to take electronic devices into the chamber during the trial — so no tweeting, at least from the senators themselves.
In other words, after Monday, Sanders and Warren will have two Sundays of daytime events in Iowa, while Biden and Buttigieg will be able to spend 13 days campaigning in the state. It’s a gargantuan advantage, and if we see Sanders and Warren sliding in the final days before the Iowa caucus, the supporters of the two senators will have a compelling argument that Pelosi’s decision sidelined and silenced the two top progressive contenders at a crucial moment.