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Impeachment Inquiry Dominates News Cycle, Not Questions From Iowa Voters

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump for asking foreign governments to dig up dirt on his potential rival Joe Biden continues to dominate talk in Washington. Some of the candidates were in Des Moines this weekend answering questions from Iowans. Impeachment didn’t dominate the conversations, but it doesn’t mean it’s not on their minds.

On Saturday, a crowd gathered for a block party outside Urban Dreams, a social services organization in central Des Moines. They were there to hear California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris speak.

“What a week we’ve had. And it’s just - we keep having these weeks. They’re never ending it seems like.”

Credit Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio
Iowa Public Radio

Harris delivered some of her stump speech and then took questions from the audience. She was asked about how she would curb gun violence as president and what her education policies would be. Nobody who stepped up to the microphone said a thing about impeachment.

Ehren Stover-Wright was in the crowd. He says come November of next year, impeachment or not, voters will still need to make a decision.

“If Trump gets impeached the vice president takes over. There is no other route, so at the end of the day,  we’re still looking at an election," Stover-Wright said.

Like many likely caucus-goers, Stover-Wright is still trying to figure out who he is going to support on February 3.

After the event, Sen. Harris told reporters she thinks impeachment is wrapped up in the overall frustrations Democrats have with the president.

“People are feeling it. They are reacting to it. They are raising it. But, it is in the overall context of really the level of frustration and exhaustion that they are experiencing.”

That’s true for Katy Condon. She stood on a high school lawn on the west side of Des Moines to hear South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speak Saturday night. 

“I’m kind of done hearing about it on the campaign trail, because I’d rather see Trump just get voted out. Because I think that’ll be more of a mandate,” Condon said.

Credit Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio
Iowa Public Radio

But Condon also says she thinks the impeachment process still needs to play out.  During Buttigieg’s remarks he only made a passing reference to the Trump-Ukraine controversy surrounding the inquiry.

“When a public servant blows the whistle on official misconduct that is an act of loyalty for the republic for which it stands,” Buttigieg said.  

He also took questions from the audience. Again, impeachment didn’t come up.

Afterwards he told reporters he thinks most Iowans just want to know how their lives would change under his presidency.

“But I also think that most people have already made up their minds. If you do not already believe having witnessing the president, confess to an abuse of power on television. If you do not already believe that that is impeachable, then it is unlikely that much is going to change your mind.”

Both Harris and Buttigieg spoke at a union forum in Altoona Sunday. So did former Vice President Joe Biden. Afterwards he said he doesn’t think all the impeachment inquiry talk has had any effect on how Iowans are making up their minds.

Biden, who is the reason there is an impeachment inquiry in to the president, referenced a new CBS poll to make his case. 

“I think based on what I’ve seen, including the poll that shows that Bernie [Sanders] and Elizabeth [Warren] and I are all tied in Iowa, that [the impeachment inquiry] has had no negative impact at all.”

While impeachment dominates the news cycle, it’s not dominating questions from Iowans who are still trying to winnow the field.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.