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GOP presidential candidates steer clear of the Biden impeachment inquiry on the trail

In World
January 12, 2024

The GOP’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden might be seen as low-hanging fruit for the party’s presidential field looking to score points with the base.

But as the probe continues to move forward in Washington, the Republicans out on the campaign trail aren’t biting.

The 2024 GOP candidates are eager to attack an unpopular Biden over a litany of issues, from his management of the southern border to his handling of the economy to accusations of weaponizing government agencies against his political opponents. What rarely comes up in their stump speeches, though, is the impeachment inquiry centered around the Biden family’s business dealings.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who was impeached twice himself as president, typically floats over the Biden impeachment inquiry during his campaign rallies. When asked about the inquiry during a radio interview in December, he said, “I don’t know. I don’t pay much attention to it. I see he did many bad things.”

Other GOP White House hopefuls, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, also avoid the subject. After saying she would welcome an inquiry into Biden during an interview in June, Haley hasn’t brought up the investigation on her own during any of her campaign stops.

When asked about the probe during an interview in December on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” DeSantis called it justifiable, but also pointed to the danger of frivolous investigations.

“I think they run the risk of doing an inquiry that doesn’t necessarily lead anywhere, while they’ve been ignoring a lot of the problems that our voters are talking about,” he said.

And on Wednesday evening, just days out from the pivotal Iowa caucuses, Biden’s impeachment inquiry did not come up during Trump’s town hall on Fox News or the DeSantis-Haley debate on CNN.

The move to hold back punches on Biden regarding the inquiry is intentional, Republican strategists say. For Trump, discussing a government investigation into the president could weaken his argument about a “two-tiered” system of justice. For the other Republican candidates, focusing on an open inquiry they agree should be occurring, but has so far uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and is outside their control, does little to distinguish themselves from their rivals in a field already crowded out by Trump.

“When you’re a presidential candidate, you want to be able to set your agenda and talk about what you would do. You don’t want to draft off of what’s going on in Congress,” said GOP strategist Matt Gorman, who advised the presidential campaign of Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

“It’s one thing to say yes, [an inquiry] should be opened and if there’s major milestones along the line, comment on it, but I think it bogs you down as a candidate who’s running for president to comment or make it a part of your campaign,” Gorman said.

After the House formally voted to kick off the inquiry along party lines late last year, the Biden impeachment effort is sure to hang over the 2024 campaign in the months to come. A pair of committees voted Wednesday to recommend the full House hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena as part of the inquiry into his father.

Polls show that while the public is split over the Biden impeachment inquiry, Republicans are broadly in favor of it. A recent USA/Today Suffolk University poll found that 43% of voters support the House’s step to launch the inquiry, compared to 49% who opposed it. Among Republicans, almost three-fourths supported the step, while 20% were against it.

Still, some Iowa caucusgoers say the inquiry is not what they want to hear discussed on the campaign trail.

“The people that are against Trump, will look for anything to use against him,” said Kathy Sexton, a Newton resident who plans to caucus for Trump. “If he started talking about Biden, they would use that against him.”

“I think he’s very wise not to talk about it,” said Shelley Buhrow, a Pleasant Hill resident who also intends to caucus for Trump. “I mean, Biden hasn’t been convicted.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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