CENTRAL CITY — Just before a half dozen 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls made their pitch to Eastern Iowa Democrats on Saturday night, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price reminded them of the importance of the race because although Donald Trump may be president of the United States, “he’s not the president for these United States.”

If he was the president for the United States, Trump “would be making sure our rural communities have the funding and the support they need to grow and thrive,” Price said at the 1st District Democrats’ Cedar Corridor Passport to Victory in Central City.

“If he was the president for these United States, he would stop his divisive tweeting and take responsibility for the fact that his words have consequences and are causing violence across this country,” Price said. “He’d be fighting for our veterans and for communities all across this state and across this country ... he would uphold the bedrock values of freedom, of liberty, of equality that define this country and quit trying to tear this country apart.”

California businessman Tom Steyer, one of six 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls who spoke, put it more bluntly. Every one of the Democratic candidates “is better prepared, more of a patriot and more thoughtful than the criminal who lives in the White House.”

However, the blame doesn’t stop with Trump, Price said. Republicans such as Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Joni Ernst, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican state legislators “have laid down their responsibility and turned their party over to this hairdo in the White House.”

The candidates seemed to embrace Price’s notion that Democrats should not assume that just because the president is unpopular he will lose, but that Democrats will have to give voters a reason to support the Democratic nominee.

“Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. We need to let them know who we are,” former Vice President Joe Biden said.

Trump’s rhetoric, Biden said, “has emboldened the worst of us” in Charlottesville, Va., in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where mass shootings last weekend killed dozens of people. It’s not the first time America has not fully lived up to the concept that everyone is created equal, “but never before have we walked away from it,” Biden said.

Steyer expects the president to accept every bad thing the Democrats say about him — that he’s a racist and misogynist, for example, but will counter that the economy is good.

Steyer, who called Trump “a fake ... incompetent,” believes he is best positioned to challenge the president on that front.

“If you’re from Iowa, how’s he doing?” Steyer asked, referring to the trade war. “He got us into a trade war without any idea how to get us out at great cost to the people of this state because he’s a liar and a bully and that’s all he knows.”

Author-lecturer Marianne Williamson agreed that the president will run on the economy, but said Trump won’t be beat with rational arguments.

“We’ll beat him with a moral argument,” she said, adding that Trump “has no conscience, no morals.”

Gun violence was a common thread throughout the candidates’ remarks. Former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who withdrew from the forum to be in El Paso in his former congressional district that was the scene of a mass shooting last weekend, sent a video making his apologies and calling for action to end gun violence.

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak agreed that background checks should be made mandatory and assault weapons “shouldn’t be on the streets.” The retired admiral believes that gun control is an issue Americans “can move to without putting (gun owners) down.”

Although the crowd that started at more than 300 dwindled through the evening, the enthusiasm for the candidates didn’t seem to wane regardless of their standing in polls. Biden leads the Iowa field with the support of 28 percent, according to a Monmouth College poll in the past week. Steyer has 3 percent and the other speakers are polling less than 1 percent.

Former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro spoke of making America the smartest, fairest, healthiest and most prosperous nation in the world.

Castro believes Democratic voters are looking for three things — someone who has the right experience, a vision for the future of the country and somebody who can beat Donald Trump.

He spoke of his executive experience as San Antonio mayor and secretary of HUD, a “record of getting things done.” He spoke of a strong, positive vision for the future of the country.

Finally, Castro said he can beat Trump by getting the 75,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan that cost Democrats the 2016 election.

“I believe that I’m the party’s best hope” to get the 11 Electoral College votes of Arizona, the 29 in Florida and the 38 in his home state of Texas.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio talked about his plans to give every child a chance to do well in school. He’s called for free, high-quality pre-K, lowering dropout rates, mandating Advanced Placement classes for all students, providing free SATs for juniors and seniors and investing more in computer science education.

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.