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What if Sanders, Warren, and Biden Get Pulled Off the Campaign Trail for a Senate Trial?

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

You’ve got Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s “known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.” You’ve got your “expletives deleted.” You’ve got your malarkey.

And then you’ve got your “what ifs?”

What if two of the top three Democrat presidential candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are taken off the campaign trail by a Senate impeachment trial of even moderate duration?

If Missouri Senator Josh Hawley’s proposed rule change to permit a Senate dismissal without having the articles fails, or if Speaker Nancy Pelosi finds the intestinal fortitude to send articles over and Majority Leader McConnell is somehow unable to secure a quick denouement to this fiasco, there will be a Senate trial.

Sanders and Warren will have to be in Washington Mondays through Saturdays after the articles are presented. They are jurors. If the trial is even moderately protracted, they will not be able to campaign on the ground in Iowa in the run-up to the February 3 caucus—unless they want to take red-eye flights late Saturday and be back in chambers by 1 pm on Monday. Warren might be okay on that schedule, but Bernie?

Mitch McConnell is not the only one waiting for Pelosi’s tardy articles. Democratic senators are growing impatient as well. They understand the stakes at risk in Schiff/Nadler’s foolhardy plan.

New Hampshire’s primary follows close on the heels of Iowa, Feb 11. Not too long after that comes Super Tuesday, March 3, with its rich trove of delegates. Imagine the two extremist-left Democrat candidates chained to their seats, hearing empty testimony in a trial with a foregone conclusion. Imagine Uncle Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg campaigning in California, Minnesota, and South Carolina free of the shadow cast by their fellow candidates’ ruinous Democratic Socialism.

There are already whispers of a Biden-Buttigieg ticket.

It follows from our “what if” to ask: who would be helped and who hurt if Sanders and Warren are stuck fast in a continuing impeachment travesty of the Democrats’ own making?

First, a point about mootness. With President Trump on a clear trajectory to reelection, impeachment’s musical chairs circus will likely prove to be a Titanic deck-chairs reenactment. Interestingly and related: former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy—a man with proximate ties to Trump’s inner circle—has opined that impeachment was never about removing a president the Democrats know they can’t beat, but an exercise in “neutering his second term by taking the Senate.”

The way the impeachment debacle has fared so far in public opinion, it seems more likely now that the Democrats may not only fail to take the Senate, but may also lose the House.

Viewed through the theoretical prism of who will win the Democratic nomination and then go on to defeat, the implications arising from Sanders and Warren being off the trail for an undetermined period of time can be assessed as follows.

On the bright side for Biden, he’ll be the only top-tier candidate on the ground during the trial. While Sanders and Warren are anchored to a pointless process in the Washington swamp, Biden might be holding court in front of an elephant-ears kiosk in Simi Valley, California. While Senator Warren is scouring the halls of Congress in search of after-hours sound-bite opportunities, Biden may well be gaffing in front of sparsely-attended rallies in Austin, Texas. Gaffes go with the territory, but his very aloneness will create an inevitable-nominee aura.

The downside for Joe, however, if Sanders and Warren are otherwise obligated, is the same as the upside. While Sanders is catching up on naps during the trial, Biden will be flying solo on the trail. His gaffes and touchy-feelies will occupy center stage even more than usual. If Biden mistakes Provo, Utah, for Salt Lake City, he won’t be able to rely on Sanders to rescue him by proclaiming before rabid leftists in Boston support for granting the right to vote to convicted criminals, after their taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgeries.

The upside for Warren and Sanders in the event of a trial that keeps them in the nation’s capital? It is hard to see one. They will be reduced to the role of functionaries in a lost cause. They will not be able to press the flesh or display the kind of energy it’s going to take to give Trump even a run for his money. Sanders has already asserted that Biden does not have the energy to beat Trump. Notwithstanding his age and heart-health issues, a well-rested Sanders does project a campaign appearance intensity that Biden lacks. Unfortunately for the Vermont senator, if he’s indisposed by purposeless proceedings on the Senate floor, none of his live chutzpah will be on display to the great leftist unwashed that have made him the frontrunner in recent polls.

Similarly, a seat-bound Elizabeth Warren will lose the impetus of her onstage vitality. Yes, she could slip into Virginia for a Sunday pre-Super Tuesday campaign event during the trial. But come Monday she’s once again bogged down, sitting by while an implacable Mitch McConnell torpedoes Nancy Pelosi’s House impeachment managers.

Now, as they say in Hollywood, let’s flip the script, sideways. In this scenario, during a Senate trial, the door is opened for an extended proceeding and the calling of witnesses. Joe Biden is yanked off the campaign trail by a GOP subpoena to testify about matters pertaining to the Ukraine, Burisma Holdings, and his son Hunter. Biden, after first claiming he would ignore such a summons, later acknowledged that he would be bound to answer it.

In this perfect storm, all the top-tier Democrats are stuck in Washington for a trial that neither the Senate or the American people want. For however brief and phantasmagorical a moment in time, Mayor Pete would be the only “contender” on the trail.

Known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. Expletives deleted. Malarkey.

What if?

Mark Ellis is the author of “A Death on the Horizon,” a novel of political upheaval and cultural intrigue. He came aboard at PJ Media in 2015. His literary hangout is Liberty Island. Follow Mark on Twitter.