WEST DES MOINES — President Donald Trump came to Iowa Tuesday to tout his trade strategies, calling himself “the best thing that ever happened to farmers” and predicting he will carry the state for Republicans again in the 2020 election.
On his fourth trip to Iowa since becoming president, Trump laid out his framework for a re-election bid that will focus on immigration, abortion, tough trade and foreign-policy stances and a strong economy.
“We’re undoing decades of calamitous trade policies and reversing eight painful years of economic surrender. We had surrendered. We had. ... There’s no surrender now,” Trump told about 800 Iowa Republicans who applauded his 46-minute speech before a fundraising meal. “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 2016, said he has been a friend to America’s farmers since taking office in January 2017. He said he has cut taxes and expanded job opportunities to create a booming economy, with wages outpacing inflation while pushing unemployment to record lows.
“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 kill the 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.
Trump brushed aside criticisms his trade policies are hurting farmers, saying “the best thing that ever happened to the farmers is me.”
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The president said his administration is providing $16 billion in support for farmers “to make up for the deficit with China” caused by its 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.
“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 the “intimate dinner” Tuesday night to take the tariff issue “head on” by presenting his “ultimate vision” for 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.