WEST DES MOINES — President Donald Trump came to Iowa Tuesday to tout his trade and tariff strategies, calling himself “the best thing that ever happened to farmers” and predicting he will carry the swing state for Republicans again in the 2020 election.
Trump, in remarks to reporters distributed by the White House press office, contrasted himself with presumed 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, who also campaigned in Iowa on Tuesday, calling the former vice president “a loser” that Barack Obama took “off the trash heap” and someone the GOP incumbent would like to run against because he would be a weak challenger.
On his fourth trip to Iowa since becoming president, Trump laid out the framework for a re-election bid that will focus on immigration policy, pro-life protections, tough trade and foreign-policy stances and a strong economy fueled by tax cuts and regulatory reform.
“We’re undoing decades of calamitous trade policies and reversing eight painful years of economic surrender. We have surrendered. We had. ... There’s no surrender now,” Trump told about 800 Iowa Republicans who applauded his 46-minute speech before savoring a fundraising meal and the prospects for election victories next year. “We just did a wonderful deal on the border with Mexico, and it’s going to be a big difference. And we’re doing a job with China. Watch what happens with China.”
Trump, who carried Iowa by 9 percent in the 2016 election, said he has been an ally and friend to America’s farmers since taking office in January 2017. He said his policies have created a booming economy, cut taxes and expanded job opportunities with wages outpacing inflation while pushing unemployment to record low rates.
“Every day it’s promises made and promises kept,” he told the fundraiser. “We’re doing better than ever before.”
By contrast, Trump said Democrats have become the party of socialism, offering costly and unworkable ideas that will undo the positive momentum his presidency has created.
“The Democrats have never been more out of touch with the mainstream. They’re totally out of touch,” he said. “They will destroy this country. We’ll be Venezuela. Don’t let it happen to us,” he said in urging Iowans to get out and vote in 2020.
During his eastern Iowa stops, Biden said Iowa farmers are feeling the pain of Trump's “erratic trade wars and climate denial,” Iowa manufacturers are feeling the pain of his “bluster and threats to our close trade partners,” and every Iowan feels the pain of Trump's “unrelenting attack” on their health care.
“America’s farmers have been crushed by his tariff war with China. No one knows that better than Iowa,” Biden told a Davenport audience.
“He thinks he’s being tough. Well, it’s easy to be tough when someone else is feeling the pain,” Biden added. “How many farmers across this state and across this nation have had to face the prospect of losing their business, of losing their farm because of Trump’s tariffs?”
Trump did not mention Biden by name during his fundraiser remarks but told members of the White House press corps before heading to Iowa that the fact that Biden had to attack him repeatedly was evidence “he’s in trouble” and lacks a salient message to voters.
“I'd rather run against, I think, Biden than anybody,” the president said. “I think he's the weakest, mentally. And I like running against people that are weak, mentally. I think Joe is the weakest up here. The other ones have much more energy. I don’t agree with their policies, but I think Joe is a man who is — I call him "1 percent Joe” — because until Obama came along, he didn’t do very well.”
During campaign stops in southeast and eastern Iowa, Biden called out Trump as an "existential threat" to the country, democracy, America’s standing in the world and an affront to decency. Biden, a former vice president and Delaware senator, also confronted and contrasted himself with Trump on issues ranging from China to climate change to tariffs to health care.
But Trump brushed aside the criticism Tuesday, saying “the best thing that ever happened to the farmers is me.”
The president said his administration is providing $16 billion in support for farmers “to make up for the deficit with China” against unfair trade retaliation. He also is working to streamline the regulatory maze for agricultural biotechnology, signing an executive order Tuesday directing federal agencies to eliminate delays, reduce developer costs and provide greater certainty about the review process for farmers.
“We gave them $16 billion. We don’t give them; they earn it, because they're patriots. We gave them ethanol at 15, which nobody was ever going to do; which Biden didn’t do in eight years as, you know, vice president,” Trump told reporters. “The farmers are my best friend. Nobody has treated the farmers better than Donald Trump.”
The president, who earlier made a stop at an ethanol plant near Council Bluffs, said he has delivered on his promise to open up sale year-round of E-15 fuel — which is gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol — providing a boost to America’s corn growers.
He also said his policies have created a booming economy, cut taxes and expanded job opportunities with wages outpacing inflation while pushing unemployment to record low rates.
“President Trump has been the disrupter that we needed in Washington,” said Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta. “The ideas coming from Democrats are extreme.”
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said the president used “an intimate dinner” with 800 Iowa Republicans to take the tariff issue “head on” by presenting his “ultimate vision” for the tariff and trade disputes.
“I think he’s sending a message — it’s not just rhetoric, he does love our state,” said Kaufmann, who praised Trump for coming to the heartland and “letting farmers know and letting Iowans know that he has a vision, he has an end game and he’s going to stick with us if we stick with him.”
Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price said Iowa Republicans are defending Trump “at all costs” even though Trump’s trade policies “are costing our state billions of dollars.”
“Donald Trump is making his first campaign stop in Iowa to tout his broken promises and distract from the increasing impact his trade war is having on farmers and our economy,” Price said.