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Impeachment Trial Takes 4 Candidates Off Campaign Trail


Tomorrow marks two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, and on Tuesday, the impeachment trial of President Trump begins in the Senate. That will draw four Democratic presidential candidates off the campaign trail. So this weekend, they've been making a final push before they have to be back in Washington, D.C., to serve as jurors in the impeachment trial. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow is in Iowa, and he is with us now with the latest.

Hi, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good afternoon.

MARTIN: So let's begin with a story that's been roiling this race in recent days. We talked about this at length on yesterday's program. And we're talking here about the spat between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. I - Scott, I understand that there was a new element to this story today. What happened?

DETROW: Yeah. Quick recap - Warren claims in 2018, Sanders told her he didn't think a woman could win the presidency and beat Donald Trump. Sanders denies saying that. It culminated in that hot mic moment after the Democratic debate Tuesday with that word liar thrown around. Now, since then, both have refused to say anything else about this, despite a lot of their supporters being bothered by it. But today, in an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Sanders was asked a question by reporter Casey McDermott.


CASEY MCDERMOTT: Do you think that gender is still an obstacle for female politicians?

BERNIE SANDERS: Look. I - the answer is yes. But I think everybody has their own sets of problems. I'm 78 years of age. That's a problem.

DETROW: His campaign is trying to say that he was just saying Donald Trump will exploit any attack he can. But this obviously angered people who might have been already angry about the potential earlier problem - or comment, rather.

I was just with Warren at an event in Des Moines. She was asked about this by myself and other reporters, and she continued to not comment on it.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I have no further comment on this. I have no further comment on this.

DETROW: And I will say this was on the minds of a number of voters here. In fact, I did talk to one person. It's an anecdote, but she was telling me this. She had been totally turned off by both Warren and Sanders in that exchange. She now supports Amy Klobuchar and is already making phone calls and volunteering for her campaign.

MARTIN: Interesting. OK. Well, so tell us more about Senator Klobuchar. How have people been responding to the senator from Minnesota?

DETROW: She got a big endorsement today from the Quad-City Times. It's in Davenport in the eastern part of the state. And with so many undecided caucus-goers out there, that could be a big boost. She's in fifth place right now, and there's a gap between her and the top candidates, but there have been some signs that she's gaining support. And I saw a lot of people out at events with her yesterday who had not checked her out before.

You know, we have talked about this all year. There's this big-picture environment of Democrats who are focused on this vague idea of electability. They just want to pick a candidate who they think can beat Trump. And that has led to a lot of undecided voters and caucus-goers. And the whole atmosphere, I think, is really well captured by an exchange I had with a woman named Renee Klein Peter (ph) before a Warren event.

Who's it down to for you?


DETROW: She just kept laughing.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK.

DETROW: And she said, you know, I just want someone who can beat Trump. Why can't someone tell me who that is? So in this environment, Klobuchar is saying, hey, I've repeatedly won in the type of state we need to win.

MARTIN: OK. And those voters will have a little bit less of an opportunity to window shop because of the impeachment trial that starts this week.

DETROW: Yeah. It's just a whole bunch of uncertainty about when these candidates can get back on the trail, so they're cramming in as many events as they can this weekend in New Hampshire, in Iowa, in South Carolina, jetting between.

MARTIN: All right. That is NPR's Scott Detrow in Iowa.

Scott, thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.