Trump tar­iffs in­cite farm belt fights

Amer­i­cans feel­ing ef­fects could sway some races

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Michael Collins

WASH­ING­TON – Iowa Demo­crat Abby Finke­nauer’s cam­paign ad opens with the story of her sis­ter and broth­erin-law, corn and soy­bean farm­ers who the can­di­date ex­plains “just want to sell their crops and make a liv­ing.” “Tar­iffs should be fair,” Finke­nauer de­clares, “but they shouldn’t make things harder.” To drive home her point, Finke­nauer closes the 30-sec­ond spot with a three­word post­script. “This,” she says point­edly, “is per­sonal.” In the na­tion’s farm belt and man­u­fac­tur­ing hubs, where Amer­i­cans are feel­ing the fall­out from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s du­ties on im­ported alu­minum, steel and other goods, tar­iffs and trade have emerged as piv­otal is­sues in the midterm elec­tions Nov. 6. In the rest of the coun­try, where Amer­i­cans have been largely iso­lated from the im­pact of the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions, trade is­sues barely reg­is­ter with vot­ers in this fall’s po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns. “It’s not a huge is­sue dom­i­nat­ing the elec­tion,” said Leah Askari­nam, a re­porter and an­a­lyst for In­side Elec­tions, a non­par­ti­san news­let­ter that tracks con­gres­sional and gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paigns across the coun­try. Eigh­teen per­cent of vot­ers listed trade wars and 17 per­cent cited tar­iffs among the is­sues that con­cern them the most in a na­tional sur­vey con­ducted in late Au­gust and early Septem­ber. Health care, ed­u­ca­tion and in­fra­struc­ture were the top is­sues on the minds of vot­ers sur­veyed by the Al­liance for Amer­i­can Man­u­fac­tur­ing. In Wis­con­sin, which has a siz­able agri­cul­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing base, 31 per­cent of vot­ers say in­creased tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum im­ports will im­prove the econ­omy, and 52 per­cent say they will hurt, ac­cord­ing to a Mar­quette Law School poll in Septem­ber. In Iowa, Finke­nauer, a Demo­cratic state rep­re­sen­ta­tive run­ning for Congress, uses the is­sue to ham­mer Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Rod Blum, who rep­re­sents the north­east­ern part of the state. Farm­ers pay the price for Trump’s tar­iffs, Finke­nauer ar­gues in a cam­paign ad, “and Rod Blum is let­ting it hap­pen.” Blum, one of the most vul­ner­a­ble House in­cum­bents this elec­tion cy­cle, is a Trump sup­porter who ap­peared along­side the pres­i­dent at a roundtable dis­cus­sion in Iowa in July. Blum thanked Trump for show­ing “po­lit­i­cal courage” in ne­go­ti­at­ing trade deals. Trump in­tro­duced Blum at the event but for­got his name. He re­ferred to the con­gress­man as “Matt Blum.” In Iowa’s gov­er­nor’s race, the Demo­cratic chal­lenger, Fred Hubbell, ac­cused Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Kim Reynolds of de­fend­ing Trump – and not farm­ers. Hubbell leads by 3.5 per­cent­age points, ac­cord­ing to Real Clear Pol­i­tics, a web­site that av­er­ages polling data. Even the Chi­nese have tried to cap­i­tal­ize on the pol­i­tics of trade. Late last month, a Chi­nese govern­ment-run me­dia com­pany placed a four-page sup­ple­ment in the Sun­day Des Moines Reg­is­ter plug­ging the ben­e­fits of U.S.-Chi­nese trade. Trump ac­cused the Chi­nese of med­dling in the up­com­ing midterm elec­tions. In North Dakota, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a vul­ner­a­ble Demo­crat, blud­geoned GOP chal­lenger Kevin Cramer for sup­port­ing Trump’s trade poli­cies. A Heitkamp cam­paign ad fea­tures for­mer Demo­cratic state Rep. Charles Lin­der­man, a farmer, stand­ing in a soy­bean field and talk­ing about the toll Trump’s tar­iffs took on his fam­ily. The spot ends with Lin­der­man look­ing into the cam­era and speak­ing di­rectly to Cramer. “You don’t even care,” he says. Even so, the is­sue doesn’t ap­pear to be help­ing Heitkamp, who is down by nearly 9 points in the Real Clear Pol­i­tics polling av­er­age. “Cramer isn’t be­ing hurt by this,” said Jen­nifer Duffy, who fol­lows Se­nate and gu­ber­na­to­rial races for the non­par­ti­san Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port. In Ten­nessee’s closely watched Se­nate race, tar­iffs are the fo­cus of a cam­paign ad by Demo­crat Phil Bre­desen, a for­mer gov­er­nor who is locked in a hard­fought bat­tle with GOP Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn for the seat be­ing va­cated by Repub­li­can Bob Corker. Stand­ing in front of stacks of wooden whiskey bar­rels, Bre­desen ar­gues that tar­iffs hurt the state’s auto in­dus­try, farm­ers and “even Ten­nessee ex­ports like Jack Daniel’s.” Black­burn said that she op­poses tar­iffs and has told the White House so but that it’s time some­one stood up to other coun­tries such as China, which have waged trade wars against the USA for years. Chal­lengers used tar­iffs to at­tack Rep. Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, R-Wash., who is in the tough­est elec­tion fight of her ca­reer against Demo­crat Lisa Brown, and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker, who is run­ning for a third term but trail­ing Demo­crat Tony Evers. McMor­ris Rodgers and Walker have spo­ken out against across-the-board tar­iffs, but their op­po­nents said the two have done lit­tle to stop them. But it’s hard to know whether tradewill be a po­tent enough is­sue to mo­ti­vate vot­ers, said Christo­pher Larimer, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­sity of North­ern Iowa. “I’m pretty skep­ti­cal at this point that any­thing will ac­tu­ally per­suade a voter to vote for the op­po­site party,” Larimer said. Nei­ther po­lit­i­cal party wants to make the elec­tion a ref­er­en­dum on tar­iffs, Askari­nam said. “That’s not what this elec­tion is about for the Democrats or the Repub­li­cans,” she said. “It’s more about elect­ing a check on the pres­i­dent or elect­ing some­body who rep­re­sents you bet­ter than the in­cum­bent, some­body who cares about what’s hap­pen­ing to your pock­et­book in terms of health care pre­mi­ums. That’s the main mes­sage. Tar­iffs might help them de­liver that mes­sage, but tar­iffs are not the ac­tual mes­sage.”

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Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tar­iffs and trade poli­cies have be­come an is­sue in No­vem­ber’s midterm elec­tions, par­tic­u­larly in farm states.

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