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From the end of the impeachment trial to the start of the 2020 elections, the last week has been one for the history books.

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump ended as expected when a slim majority of U.S. senators, all of them from Trump's Republican Party, voted to acquit him.

Only Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, bravely broke party ranks to vote for Trump's conviction with the Democrats and independents in the Senate.

It was perhaps the most significant vote any of these senators may ever cast, one that will be judged in time by history and the eventual revelation of evidence left undiscovered at trial.

Count Arkansas' two senators, John Boozman and Tom Cotton, among the Republicans voting for Trump's acquittal. They had also joined the partisan majority on an earlier vote against hearing witnesses or seeking documents that might have influenced the outcome of the trial.

Ongoing public reaction to the historic proceedings also breaks mostly along partisan lines. While Republicans defend Trump, Democrats condemn him not just for the Ukraine-related allegations for which he was impeached but also for his vindictive actions post-acquittal.

Whatever remains of the political dispute will play out in the 2020 elections, which began with the caucuses in Iowa last week and the primary this week in New Hampshire.

As happens every presidential election year, these first-in-the-nation events are being criticized for being unrepresentative of a much more diverse nation and too influential in choosing the parties' eventual nominees.

It is hard to argue that small states where white voters make up more than 90 percent of turnout should have such outsized impact on presidential politics.

But they do.

Iowa's bungling of the count there this year intensified the criticism and may lead to that state's abandonment of the caucus system.

For now, the early Iowa and New Hampshire influence remains as strong as ever, recording the first votes in what looks to be an unusually difficult journey toward the November general election.

President Trump has only token opposition for the Republican nomination, yet he put on a show of strength in New Hampshire with one of his signature rallies there Monday night.

It was a distraction and disruption to the tight Democratic primary, where as many as five candidates were expected to survive the early balloting and move on to more diverse caucuses in Nevada and the primary in South Carolina.

At this writing, voters are still going to the polls in New Hampshire, but projections were for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; and former Vice President Joe Biden to have garnered support and money enough to carry on.

Another candidate or two, including billionaire Tom Steyer, may stay in for awhile. The outlook for anyone beyond the favored five is just weaker heading into Nevada and South Carolina.

Awaiting whoever remains in the race after that is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The billionaire is self-financing his campaign, which has already poured many millions into nationwide advertising.

Bloomberg chose to bypass all four of the early state votes, which collectively will have determined just 9 percent of the pledged delegates to the Democratic national convention.

Bloomberg's first electoral test will come on Super Tuesday. Collectively, the March 3 elections, including the primary in Arkansas, offer another 38 percent of pledged delegates.

The Bloomberg strategy is in its own way disruptive to the Democrats' nominating process.

No one knows quite what to expect as Bloomberg presents himself as an alternative to the rest of the Democratic field, which will surely be somewhat smaller by Super Tuesday.

Certainly, the survivors will be a bit more battered after suffering attacks from each other.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg floats above the fray, buying television time and social media to attack Donald Trump.

Commentary on 02/12/2020

Print Headline: Disputes and disruptions

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