Elections

Trump, Clinton surrogates bash opponents

Former Reagan administration staffer endorses Democratic nominee in Cedar Rapids

Veterans and supporters gather behind Doug Elmets, a former Iowan and Reagan administration official, as he shares his support of Hillary Clinton in a news conference in front of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Elmets, a self-described lifelong Republican, announced his support for Clinton and said he is voting for a Democrat for the first time. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Veterans and supporters gather behind Doug Elmets, a former Iowan and Reagan administration official, as he shares his support of Hillary Clinton in a news conference in front of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Elmets, a self-described lifelong Republican, announced his support for Clinton and said he is voting for a Democrat for the first time. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump trotted out surrogates Thursday in a series of tit-for-tat appearances and conference calls to question the fitness of their respective opponents.

In Cedar Rapids, former Iowan, University of Iowa graduate and Reagan administration staffer Doug Elmets asked “How can any self-respecting human being look at Donald Trump and say he should be the leader of this country?”

Although he has made contributions to Democratic candidates, Elmets said he has never voted for a Democrat since casting his first vote for president in 1980 for Ronald Reagan.

In contrast to Trump, who plans to campaign in Clive on Tuesday, he said, Clinton “is more prepared to be president than anyone in modern history.”

Elmets plans to give her his vote.

In contrast, Col. LaVerne Anderson, retired from the Army after nearly 43 years of service and chairman of Iowa Veterans for Trump, said revelations about Clinton’s mishandling of sensitive intelligence material “should disqualify her as being president.”

“I think Hillary Clinton and the current administration have endangered our nation’s security,” Anderson said on a conference call. He said Clinton exposed “classified information to actors on her unsecured, I would say home brew, email server” and that it has “weakened the decision making” in Iraq, Syria and Libya and “turned those countries into a breeding ground for radical Islamic terror.”

While Elmets argued there is no comparison between his former boss and Trump — who he called “an empty suit,” “phony” and a person lacking grace and humility who offers “crazy notions” — Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said comments the GOP nominee made during a national security forum Wednesday reminded him of Reagan’s “peace through strength” approach.

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“I believe that’s what Donald Trump represents, I believe that’s what Donald Trump can deliver,” he said.

— Rod Boshart of the Des Moines bureau contributed to this story.

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