CNN  — 

Sometimes politicians can’t help themselves. They get careless. They say stuff they shouldn’t say. They tell the truth that they have been trying to disguise.

So it went for Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on Monday night. Following an afternoon at the Senate impeachment trial in which President Donald Trump’s legal team made the case – without any established factual basis – that former Vice President Joe Biden had acted inappropriately in 2016 when he called for the resignation of the top prosecutor in Ukraine, Ernst told reporters this:

“Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers. Will they be supporting VP Biden at this point?”


Remember that Republicans – including Ernst – have been arguing for months and months that Trump’s effort to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the activities of Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine had nothing to do with the fact that the former vice president was a) running for the 2020 Democratic nomination and b) was a front-running candidate to be the nominee. Trump’s interest was solely in rooting out corruption! This wasn’t about Biden at all!

(Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential political rival, are at the center of the President’s impeachment trial. Trump has repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted improperly in Ukraine. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.)

Ernst’s comments on Monday are the most obvious evidence yet that, of course, this isn’t just about corruption in Ukraine. Look at the words she uses – “informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters.” “Influence!”

What Ernst is saying is that she hopes that the focus by the Trump legal team on Biden – which included the airing of all sorts of entirely disproven rumors about both him and his son – will change minds of Iowa Democrats when they go to their caucus on Monday night.

It’s impossible to separate Ernst’s hope that the White House legal team did Biden political damage from the fact that the former vice president, in virtually every national poll, runs best against Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup. In a Fox News survey released Sunday, Biden stands at 50% to Trump’s 41%. A Washington Post poll released Monday gave Biden a 50% to 46% edge. A CNN poll out last week gave Biden a 9-point edge.

It’s just not terribly complicated to see what’s going on here. In fact, to assume that there isn’t – and wasn’t – any sort of political motivation for the intense focus on Joe (and Hunter) Biden by Donald Trump and his administration requires you to suspend all logic and reason.

Of course, Trump and his fellow Republicans want to ding up Biden. Of course they view the former VP as a major threat – because polling shows he is!

The only thing that’s at all surprising here is that Ernst came right out and told reporters all about it.