Bi­den, Trump swap barbs in du­el­ing Iowa vis­its



Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Joe Bi­den spent Tues­day trad­ing in­sults – some­times al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously – as they stumped across Iowa in split-screen mo­ments that could pre­view a fe­ro­cious fight ahead if the two face off for the pres­i­dency next year.

Bi­den’s name recog­ni­tion and a sense among some Democrats that he could beat Trump has helped him climb to the top of his party’s crowded pres­i­den­tial field. But Trump said Bi­den only gained in the polls be­cause he went on the of­fen­sive against the pres­i­dent him­self, and he linked the for­mer vice pres­i­dent to 2016 foe Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“Peo­ple don’t re­spect him,” Trump said after tour­ing a re­new­able en­ergy fa­cil­ity in Coun­cil Bluffs. “Even the peo­ple that he’s run­ning against, they’re say­ing: ‘Where is he? What hap­pened?’ ”

With a dose of ex­ag­ger­a­tion, the pres­i­dent added: “He makes his stance in Iowa once ev­ery two weeks and then he men­tions my name 74 times in one speech. I don’t know. That re­minds me of Crooked Hil­lary. She did the same thing.”

At al­most the same mo­ment in Mount Pleas­ant, Bi­den noted the at­ten­tion he has been get­ting from Trump. Bi­den’s ap­pear­ances from ear­lier in the day were play­ing on TV screens when Air Force One landed in Iowa.

“I guess he’s re­ally fas­ci­nated by me,” said Bi­den, who men­tioned Trump by name about a dozen times dur­ing his first two events in Iowa. “I find it fas­ci­nat­ing.” He started to say more but then stopped him­self, quip­ping: “My mother would say: ‘Joey, fo­cus. Don’t de­scend. Stay up.’ ”

Pressed later by re­porters about his re­peated as­sur­ances that he wouldn’t openly crit­i­cize Trump while cam­paign­ing, Bi­den said, “By not talk­ing about him per­son­ally – talk­ing about where I dis­agree with him on the is­sues, why he’s do­ing such dam­age to the coun­try – that’s to­tally dif­fer­ent than at­tack­ing his char­ac­ter or lack thereof.”

Speak­ing Tues­day night in Daven­port, Bi­den said vot­ers must stop the pres­i­dent’s at­tempts to el­e­vate his of­fice

be­yond its tra­di­tional limits of power. Trump is “break­ing down the barriers that con­strain his power,” Bi­den said, and act­ing like he has “com­plete power.”

“No, you don’t, Don­ald Trump!” Bi­den thun­dered into the mi­cro­phone, spark­ing cheers from a crowd of around 500 at the Mis­sis­sippi Val­ley Fair­grounds.

The back and forth be­tween Trump and Bi­den laid bare the ris­ing po­lit­i­cal stakes for each man, even with the elec­tion about 17 months away. Trump has ze­roed in on Bi­den as a po­ten­tial threat to his re­elec­tion chances and is test­ing themes to beat him back. Bi­den, mean­while, is cam­paign­ing as a front-run­ner, rel­ish­ing the one-onone fight with Trump while mak­ing sure he doesn’t ig­nore the de­mands of the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

“I’d rather run against Bi­den than any­body,” Trump told re­porters on the White House lawn be­fore fly­ing to Iowa. “I think he’s the weak­est men­tally, and I like run­ning against peo­ple that are weak men­tally.”

Bi­den be­gan the day in Ot­tumwa, the heart of Wapello County, a meat­pack­ing and agri­cul­tural manufactur­ing cen­ter that Trump was the first Repub­li­can to carry since Dwight D. Eisen­hower. It’s part of Bi­den’s dual track ap­proach: cam­paign­ing for the cau­cuses while pro­ject­ing him­self as some­one who can win in ter­ri­tory Trump snatched from Democrats in 2016, such as Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin.

There, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent hit Trump on the econ­omy – an is­sue the pres­i­dent of­ten promotes as his chief strength in a time of low un­em­ploy­ment.

“I hope his pres­ence here will be a clar­i­fy­ing event be­cause Iowa farm­ers have been crushed by his tar­iffs to­ward China,” Bi­den said.

For Trump, the power of in­cum­bency was on dis­play in this state dom­i­nated by agri­cul­ture in­ter­ests.

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