Trump and Bi­den trade barbs as they head to­ward Iowa

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Front Page - BY ELI STOKOLS AND JANET HOOK Los An­ge­les Times

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump couldn’t wait to ar­rive in Iowa be­fore at­tack­ing Joe Bi­den. And vice versa.

With the two ri­vals both cam­paign­ing in the state later Tues­day, and a po­ten­tial 2020 elec­tion matchup be­tween the two 70-some­thing white men com­ing into clearer fo­cus, the bit­ter back-and-forth be­gan early and kept up all day, a pos­si­ble sign of the tu­mult to come.

Bi­den’s cam­paign fired the first shot, re­leas­ing ex­cerpts of a speech he plans to de­liver Tues­day night in Davenport in which the for­mer vice pres­i­dent calls Trump “an ex­is­ten­tial threat” to the na­tion and ap­peals to Mid­west­ern farm­ers and auto work­ers by blast­ing the pres­i­dent’s tar­iffs for “chok­ing” their in­dus­tries.

Trump fired back as he left the White House around noon for vis­its to Coun­cil Bluffs and

Des Moines. In a back and forth with re­porters on the South Lawn, he dis­missed Bi­den as “a loser” for getting only 1% in Iowa’s Demo­cratic cau­cuses when he ran for pres­i­dent in 2008, which ended his nascent cam­paign, and polls show­ing a tight­en­ing race now.

“It looks like he’s fail­ing,” Trump said. “It looks like his friends from the left are go­ing to over­take him very soon.”

Trump added that he would “rather run against, I think, Bi­den than any­body. I think he’s the weak­est men­tally, and I think Joe is weak men­tally. The others have much more en­ergy.”

Trump has been obsessed with Bi­den, partly be­cause his cam­paign’s in­ter­nal polls show Bi­den lead­ing the pres­i­dent in critical swing states like Penn­syl­va­nia and Michi­gan, both of which Trump un­ex­pect­edly won in 2016 and prob­a­bly needs again if he is to win re­elec­tion.

Bi­den, seeking to po­si­tion him­self above the squab­bling mul­ti­tude of his party’s pres­i­den­tial race, has focused largely on draw­ing con­trasts with Trump. And by re­leas­ing a speech text in ad­vance of his Iowa tour, Bi­den’s cam­paign pro­voked the pres­i­dent and gar­nered more at­ten­tion than it might have got­ten oth­er­wise as ca­ble stations broad­cast his first com­ments live in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon.

In the near term, Iowa’s first-in-the-na­tion contest on Feb. 3 is far more im­por­tant for Bi­den than for Trump, who is vir­tu­ally as­sured of cap­tur­ing his party’s nom­i­na­tion ab­sent an un­likely political earth­quake. An­other ma­jor loss for Bi­den in the state could hob­ble his cam­paign again.

De­spite his front-run­ner sta­tus, Bi­den has yet to win over Iowa’s Demo­cratic activists – Tues­day’s three stops come in his first ap­pear­ance in the state, and he be­gan his re­marks with an apol­ogy for his de­ci­sion to skip a fo­rum Sun­day in Cedar Rapids that drew 19 can­di­dates.

A week­end Des Moines Regis­ter poll showed Bi­den atop the Demo­cratic field with 24%, a sig­nif­i­cant share con­sid­er­ing there are two dozen can­di­dates in the race but no­tably smaller than his cur­rent lead in most na­tional polls.

But Trump’s fix­a­tion on the for­mer vice pres­i­dent is help­ing Bi­den ex­e­cute his pri­mary strat­egy of cast­ing him­self as an in­evitable and for­mi­da­ble gen­eral elec­tion chal­lenger to the in­cum­bent.

Ac­cord­ing to Bi­den’s pre­pared text for Davenport, he will fo­cus on the im­pact on Amer­i­can farm­ers and blue col­lar work­ers of Trump’s es­ca­lat­ing trade tar­iffs on China and other coun­tries – and he'll men­tion the po­ten­tial political im­pact as well on the White House.

“The truth is he’s scared,” Bi­den planned to say about Trump. “His eco­nomic folks told him his tough talk was about to cost to him Michi­gan and Ohio and Iowa.”

“Trump doesn’t get the ba­sics. He thinks his tar­iffs are be­ing paid by China. Any be­gin­ning econ stu­dent at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are pay­ing his tar­iffs. The cashiers at Tar­get see what’s go­ing on – they know more about eco­nom­ics than Trump.”

Trump, clearly irked, called Bi­den “a dummy” who doesn’t take China se­ri­ously enough as a threat. “China ate our country alive” dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, when Bi­den was vice pres­i­dent, Trump charged.

Bi­den’s first event of the day was in Ot­tumwa, in eastern Iowa, where his words were tough but his man­ner was re­strained as he read from pre­pared re­marks.

“Pres­i­dent Trump is in Iowa to­day,” he said. “I hope his pres­ence here will be a clar­i­fy­ing event, be­cause Iowa farm­ers have been crushed by his tar­iff war on China. He thinks he’s be­ing tough. It’s easy to be tough when some­one else feels the pain.”

RACHEL MUMMEY NYT

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, takes a photo dur­ing a cam­paign event Tues­day in Ot­tumwa, Iowa.

PATRICK SEMANSKY AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump boards Air Force One at An­drews Air Force Base, Md., on Tues­day for a trip to Iowa to tour a re­new­able en­ergy fa­cil­ity and at­tend a fundraiser.

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