Pres­i­den­tial heavy-hit­ters duke it out in heart­land

‘Ex­is­ten­tial threat’ vs. ‘men­tally’ weak in Iowa

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Trump and Demo­cratic front-run­ner Joseph R. Bi­den cam­paigned in Iowa si­mul­ta­ne­ously Tues­day in the first po­ten­tial pre­view of the 2020 elec­tion, with the pres­i­dent crit­i­ciz­ing Mr. Bi­den as “the weak­est men­tally” and the for­mer vice pres­i­dent telling vot­ers that Mr. Trump poses an “ex­is­ten­tial threat” to the na­tion.

Mr. Trump, who will turn 73 Fri­day, and Mr. Bi­den, 76, ques­tioned each other’s fit­ness for of­fice as they con­tin­ued to brush aside the crowded field of mostly younger Demo­cratic ri­vals who are gain­ing on the for­mer vice pres­i­dent.

“I’d rather run against I think Bi­den than any­body,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters. “I think he’s the weak­est men­tally. And I like run­ning against peo­ple that are weak men­tally. The other ones have much more en­ergy.”

Point­ing to his head, the pres­i­dent said, “I think Joe is the weak­est up here.”

Mr. Trump even tagged Mr. Bi­den with per­haps his ul­ti­mate in­sult: He said the for­mer vice pres­i­dent “re­minds me of Crooked Hil­lary” Clin­ton in 2016, be­cause he stands only for his op­po­si­tion to Mr. Trump.

“He makes his stand in Iowa once ev­ery two

weeks, and then he men­tions my name 74 times in one speech,” Mr. Trump said in Coun­cil Bluffs. “That re­minds me of Crooked Hil­lary — she did the same thing.”

Their du­el­ing cam­paign events in the cru­cial cau­cus state were held as a na­tional poll showed Mr. Bi­den lead­ing the pres­i­dent by “land­slide pro­por­tions” and five other Demo­cratic can­di­dates edg­ing out Mr. Trump. The Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity sur­vey found Mr. Bi­den with a lead of 53% to 40% in a hy­po­thet­i­cal matchup against the pres­i­dent.

Mr. Bi­den leads Mr. Trump among fe­male vot­ers 60% to 34% and among in­de­pen­dents 58% to 28%.

But the Quin­nip­iac poll and an Iowa sur­vey showed Mr. Bi­den’s sup­port slip­ping against the rest of the Demo­cratic field. Sen. Bernard San­ders of Ver­mont, Sen. Eliz­a­beth Warren of Mas­sachusetts and Mayor Pete But­tigieg of South Bend, In­di­ana, gained ground on Mr. Bi­den in the Quin­nip­iac poll in the past three weeks. Mr. San­ders, at 77 the only can­di­date older than Mr. Bi­den, was clos­est, trail­ing him by 11 per­cent­age points, 30% to 19%.

Mr. Trump taunted Mr. Bi­den by say­ing, “It looks like his friends from the left are go­ing to over­take him pretty soon.”

Speak­ing in Ot­tumwa, Iowa, Mr. Bi­den said polls so early in the cam­paign “don’t mean a thing.” He said he hoped the pres­i­dent’s ap­pear­ance in Iowa will be “a clar­i­fy­ing event” for vot­ers be­cause of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tar­iffs that he said are hurt­ing farm­ers.

As Mr. Bi­den spoke, Trump sup­porter Rus­sell Weeks, 39, cir­cled the park­ing lot out­side the event in his Mer­cury Ze­phyr with a poster of Mr. Trump in the pas­sen­ger seat and dan­gling a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag out his driver’s win­dow.

The pres­i­dent had his own chal­lenge with polls Tues­day. The Quin­nip­iac sur­vey showed Mr. Trump trail­ing not just Mr. Bi­den but also Mr. San­ders (51% to 42%), Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia (49% to 41%), Ms. Warren (49% to 42%), Mr. But­tigieg (47% to 42%) and Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey (47% to 42%).

The pres­i­dent, who of­ten notes that sur­veys in 2016 were con­sis­tently wrong about his chances of de­feat­ing Mrs. Clin­ton, dismissed the polling.

“My poll num­bers are great,” he said. Mr. Trump also pushed back against a New York Times re­port that he told aides to lie about in­ter­nal polling that pur­port­edly shows him trail­ing Mr. Bi­den in swing states.

“I never do [tell aides to lie],” said the pres­i­dent, de­scrib­ing the sur­veys of bat­tle­ground states as “fake polls.”

He noted that his re­elec­tion cam­paign will hold an of­fi­cial launch rally Tues­day in Or­lando, Florida.

“It’s go­ing to be some­thing, I think, very spe­cial,” he said.

After tour­ing an ethanol plant in Coun­cil Bluffs, Iowa, Mr. Trump re­minded an en­thu­si­as­tic au­di­ence of corn grow­ers that his ad­min­is­tra­tion lifted re­stric­tions on sell­ing E15 ethanol dur­ing the hot sum­mer months “just in time to fuel Amer­ica’s sum­mer va­ca­tions.”

“Amer­ica must never again be held hostage to for­eign sup­pli­ers of en­ergy, as we were un­der the Obama-Bi­den ‘Sleepy Joe’” ad­min­is­tra­tion, the pres­i­dent said.

Mr. Trump noted that his Demo­cratic ri­val was cam­paign­ing in the state at vir­tu­ally the same time.

“It was some­place in Iowa to­day, and he said my name so many times that peo­ple couldn’t stand it any­more,” Mr. Trump joked.

Re­fer­ring to ethanol pro­duc­tion again, the pres­i­dent added, “This isn’t po­lit­i­cal sea­son quite for me. It’ll start next week. But just re­mem­ber the Democrats were to­tally op­posed to this, folks.”

The pres­i­dent’s speech was heavy with ac­cu­sa­tions that the “Obama-Bi­den” ad­min­is­tra­tion failed farm­ers in trade agree­ments. He said his tar­iff war with China is nec­es­sary be­cause “some­body had to say ‘no more’” to Beijing’s ex­ploita­tion of the U.S.

“Obama-Bi­den didn’t say it; they just let it hap­pen,” Mr. Trump said.

He added that if Mr. Bi­den is elected “we would never be treated with re­spect be­cause peo­ple don’t re­spect him — even the peo­ple that he’s run­ning against.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has ap­proved a $16 bil­lion bailout fund this year for farm­ers hurt by China’s re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs after a $12 bil­lion bailout last year. The pres­i­dent said U.S. tar­iffs on China are fund­ing the emer­gency farm aid.

“And out of those tar­iffs, we gave the farm­ers $16 bil­lion,” he said. “Nobody else is go­ing to do that. China has levied un­fair re­tal­i­a­tion … [but] we’ve made up for it and more so. We’re re­vers­ing decades of failed trade poli­cies.”

The pres­i­dent also urged his au­di­ence to pres­sure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress to ap­prove his U.S.-Mex­ico-Canada trade agree­ment, a re­place­ment for the 1994 North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. He said the new deal would ex­pand mar­kets for U.S. farm­ers.

“You have to get out and push the Democrats to put it up be­cause they’d rather see our coun­try do badly than give us a vic­tory,” Mr. Trump said. “So go out. Go out and press the Democrats. Press Nancy Pelosi, press them all.”

Be­fore head­ing to a Repub­li­can Party fundraiser, the pres­i­dent signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der aimed at speed­ing up fed­eral re­views of agri­cul­tural biotech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions.

To cheers, Mr. Trump said he will never stop fighting for farm­ers “be­cause we know that farm coun­try is God’s coun­try.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump said, “I’d rather run against I think Bi­den than any­body,” but a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity sur­vey showed the for­mer vice pres­i­dent win­ning against the in­cum­bent by “land­slide pro­por­tions,” with a lead of 53% to 40% in a hy­po­thet­i­cal matchup.

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