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President Trump was easily acquitted on Wednesday on both articles of impeachment, less than 24 hours after giving a proud, pugnacious State of the Union address that signaled the start of his 2020 campaign. The Democratic presidential candidates are starting to ask voters to do what the Senate would not. Michael Bennet put it this way on Twitter: “The Senate failed to do its job. Now the American people must do theirs.”
In Iowa, we finally have something close to complete results — but now the picture is less clear than ever. With 97 percent of precincts reporting early Thursday, Pete Buttigieg’s lead over Bernie Sanders had been cut to a tenth of a percentage point. Results from satellite caucus sites have yet to come in; satellites are a new phenomenon in Iowa, and their potential impact on the final vote count is unclear.
After what looks like a humbling defeat in Iowa, Joe Biden finds himself facing “jittery donors, an uncertain landscape in upcoming Democratic contests and a sharp challenge” to the argument that he’s the most electable Democrat in November, Katie Glueck, Jonathan Martin and Thomas Kaplan write. Speaking to a crowd in Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday, Biden admitted that he “took a gut punch in Iowa” — but he said he was in this fight for the long haul. “I’m going to fight for this nomination” he said. “I’m counting on New Hampshire. We’re going to come back.”
After all that talk of “wine caves” at the last Democratic debate, Buttigieg’s fund-raising habits are a touchy subject. But there’s no way around it: High-dollar events are essential to his campaign, so on Wednesday he left New Hampshire for a swing through New Jersey and New York, holding one fund-raiser in each state. (He has another in New York scheduled for Thursday.) Elizabeth Warren and Sanders have criticized rivals like Buttigieg for taking corporate donations.
One thing that has Democrats worried: the modest turnout at the caucuses on Monday. We still don’t know the full results, but we do know that turnout was only a little better than in 2016 — and not nearly on the level of 2008, when Barack Obama’s candidacy drove a wave of enthusiasm. Some Democratic insiders are expressing concerns that this reflects badly on the power of the party’s brand, particularly in the Midwest, as it looks ahead to the general election.
A last word about Iowa, from Patrick Healy, our politics editor, who left Des Moines on Wednesday for Manchester, N.H.:
It’s hard to overstate how frustrated a lot of Iowans feel about the way the caucuses turned out. Both Democrats and Republicans there take exceptional pride in their electoral process, and many Democratic caucusgoers cherish the memory of setting Barack Obama on the road to the White House in 2008. In the 36 hours after Monday’s caucuses, Iowan after Iowan expressed regret over the state party’s debacle. It’s a little heartbreaking to see a proudly political state so aghast and humbled.
Photo of the day
Andrew Yang after an event in Keene, N.H., on Wednesday. He is trying to appeal directly to New Hampshire voters who supported Donald J. Trump in 2016 and are now looking for a Democrat to woo them.
Trump was acquitted on Wednesday after the third and briefest presidential impeachment trial in American history.
Mitt Romney was the only senator to go against the rest of his or her own party. He voted to convict Trump on the first article of impeachment — abuse of power — but not on the second, obstruction of justice.
“The grave question the Constitution tasked senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor,” Romney said. “Yes, he did.”
But ultimately, he was just a speck of red in a sea of blue, not nearly enough to reach the two-thirds threshold needed for a conviction. Trump plans to make a statement on his acquittal at the White House on Thursday at noon.
Trump’s Gallup approval rating rose to 49 percent just before the State of the Union address, his highest on record. He has already gone longer than any previous president without reaching 50 percent approval — but if he gets a bump from the State of the Union, that streak could end. And just at the right moment for him: the start of his re-election year.
Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday was a direct-delivery mechanism for Republican red meat. He seemed squarely aimed at his own base for most of the speech. And Democrats took notice.
In New Hampshire, Biden said: “Anyone that watched the State of the Union last night knows two things: One, it’s going to be hard to beat Trump. And two, we have to beat Donald Trump.”
Trump portrayed undocumented immigrants as fatally dangerous, promised to fight for the Second Amendment and painted the Democratic agenda as socialist. He also boasted of what he called an end to “the mentality of American decline” and took credit repeatedly for the low unemployment rate; he didn’t mention that the rate fell steadily throughout President Barack Obama’s two terms.
Our reporter Astead W. Herndon, writing in from New Hampshire, said none of this was new — but it’s a reminder of Trump’s bare-knuckle approach.
The State of the Union has reinforced for Democrats what they have known for more than a year: that Trump has united the Republican Party and will be a difficult person to run against. This is common knowledge by now, among Democrats and the 2020 candidates themselves. People in the party use new speeches by the president as another opportunity to drive home that message or to fund-raise, but not because they’re surprised.
James Poniewozik, The Times’s chief TV critic, watched most of the State of the Union with his mouth half agape. He has written about many Trump speeches over the past few years, but this one — a “stunt-laden spectacle,” James calls it — stood out. In a just-published critic’s notebook, he explains why. Here’s an excerpt:
The speech was jammed with more twists and giveaways than a two-hour “Survivor” finale. President Trump awarded a young girl in the audience a scholarship. He had his wife, Melania, drape a Presidential Medal of Freedom around the paleoconservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh. He arranged a reunion between a deployed soldier and his wife, just like the surprise-military-return videos that TV morning shows love.
In addition to previewing Trump’s re-election campaign, James thinks all the bluster might have served the more immediate purpose of distracting viewers from both the Democratic primary election and his own impeachment trial.
For the president, the address had obvious political goals, coming amid the impeachment trial and at the beginning of an election year. But it also seemed built to make noise and get lasting attention amid a crazy-busy political news week.
- On a private conference call, Iowa Democratic leaders revealed more about how the results reporting process went calamitously awry.
- After each suffering a damaging setback in Iowa, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are pursuing very different strategies to seek a revival.
- Iowa Democratic officials say a delay in results is largely because of a “quality control” effort. As results become available, we’ll post them here.
- Learn more about the top-polling Democratic presidential contenders.