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Trump decries Biden’s ‘non-stop war on American agriculture’ in Davenport speech
Early polling shows some of the former president’s Iowa support has eroded
Tom Barton, Sarah Watson and Tom Loewy - Gazette Des Moines Bureau and Quad-City Times
Mar. 13, 2023 3:51 pm, Updated: Mar. 14, 2023 9:40 am
DAVENPORT — Former President Donald Trump touted trade policies he argues have been a boon for America’s farmers, and attacked Democratic President Joe Biden for a “non-stop war on American agriculture” in a speech Monday in Iowa.
Trump, 76, stopped at the Adler Theatre in Davenport where he delivered what was billed as an education policy speech in his first visit to the Hawkeye state since announcing his third bid for the presidency in November. Instead, Trump touched more broadly on his accomplishments as president, including trade policies and agriculture, in the first half of his speech.
He criticized the Biden administration over the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that will expand protections for the nation's waters through updates to the Clean Water Act. Trump advanced long-held Republican arguments that the regulations are an environmental overreach and burden to business.
Trump touted trade agreements made during his administration with China, Mexico and Canada. Agreements he said have supported farm exports and American jobs, “many here in this room and many here in Iowa.”
Trump, too, touted his support of ethanol.
“That’s what happens when you have a president that stands up for America and puts America first,” Trump said, leading a woman in the audience to shout “That’s my president!”
Trump told the crowd they’re “still seeing the benefits” of his trade and agriculture policies, “but it’s slowly slipping away” under the Biden administration.
“Within hours of my inauguration, I will cancel every single Biden policy,” he said to raucous applause that led to chants of “USA, USA.”
Trump congratulated Iowa on passing a bill to support families with costs of private education by permitting public dollars to follow Iowa students into private and/or religious schools.
“As president, I’ll fight to expand that right to every single state in America,” Trump said.
Among the lines with the loudest applause:
- Trump said he would “stop the invasion at the border.”
- Sign an executive order to cut federal funding for any school that’s “pushing critical race theory”
- “Keep men out of women’s sports.”
- Cut federal funding to “schools with vaccine mandates.”
- Break up the U.S. Department of Education
“We won this state twice. Unfortunately we’re going to have to do it a third time,” Trump said at the start of his speech in Davenport.
Trump supporters were eager to see him Monday. By 8:30 a.m. lawn chairs already were set up in front of the theater, saving spots for rallygoers to see the 45th president. By 2:30 p.m., a line had formed stretching a few blocks down West Third Street from the Adler Theater to Main Street in downtown Davenport.
“I support and love the greatest president there ever was, President Donald Trump,” said John Russell, 51, who drove two hours from Aurora, Ill., and spent the night in downtown Davenport, sleeping in his 2021 Nissan Altima. Russell camped out in freezing temperatures to see the former president.
This was his fifth time seeing the former president in person.
The visit comes on the heels of a Davenport stop last week by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who drew hundreds to Rhythm City Casino during his first trip to Iowa as a potential presidential candidate.
Early polling shows Trump and DeSantis as early favorites for the GOP nomination. A Real Clear Politics rolling average of presidential primary polls shows Trump maintains a strong plurality — 43 percent — of the vote, but not a majority. DeSantis, an early favorite for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, garners 28 percent — the only potential candidate polling with double digit support behind Trump.
Monday's visit comes just as a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Friday shows Trump and DeSantis on even footing in favorability ratings among Iowa Republicans. About 42 percent of Iowa Republicans view DeSantis as very favorable and about 44 percent of Iowa Republicans view Trump on the same measure.
Heather Shappard of Geneseo, Ill., brought her 11- and 13-year-old daughters with her. The trio, sporting “Make America Great” stocking hats, relaxed in lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of the Adler at 11 a.m., four hours before doors opened.
Shappard has seen Trump in person several times, including at a rally in Des Moines in October 2020 outside the Des Moines International Airport.
“I wanted my girls to have that experience,” Shappard said. “I want them to see how the country’s supposed to be ran. They’ve seen for the last couple of years Biden completely screwing it up. They lived through the prior four years of Trump, and they’re smart enough to realize the difference.”
Shappard said she was eager to hear Trump’s thoughts on education reform in America.
A former substitute teacher, Shappard said public education in the country “is doing poorly.”
Shappard said she firmly supports Trump’s White House bid, adding “I think he should have been in (the White House) right now.”
Of DeSantis, Shappard said “he is intelligent and he speaks well and there is some action behind what he does,” but she does not feel he is best suited for the presidency.
“He should stay the governor of Florida,” she said.
The Trump campaign announced a slate of endorsements from Eastern Iowa lawmakers ahead of the event, including state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, R-Wilton, a senior adviser to the campaign, as well as from Republican former Iowa congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who was appointed by Trump.
But while many Iowa Republicans remain committed to Trump, the former president has seen his support erode as campaigning begins to heat up ahead of Iowa’s leadoff 2024 presidential caucuses.
The Iowa Poll showed many Iowa Republicans said they still supported the former president, but fewer said they would “definitely” vote for him. Forty-seven percent of Iowa Republicans said they would “definitely” support Trump in 2024, down from 69 percent in June 2021.
The last time Trump stopped in Iowa, he rallied supporters in Sioux City, campaigning for Iowa Republicans Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Chuck Grassley days before the 2022 midterm elections.
Reynolds took the stage Monday to introduce Trump.
“Biden failed to protect our border, he’s failed to protect our skies and he’s failed to protect our pocket books,” Reynolds said, while “farmers and small businesses won” during Trump’s presidency.
“Common-sense prevailed and our border was under control,” Reynolds said. “It wasn’t like this four years ago under President Trump’s watch. He is unapologetically America First. He loves this country. He loves Iowa.”
Reynolds, who has a unique amount of political clout as an Iowa governor who won re-election with a double-digit margin in November, has appeared with several prominent GOP figures in Iowa, and has pledged to stay neutral ahead of the caucuses. Most recently she appeared with DeSantis at his two Iowa events, where they both drew parallels between Iowa and Florida's approaches to education and the pandemic. She also has introduced former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott at events.
What do Democrats have to say about Trump’s visit?
DNC spokesperson Rhyan Lake wrote in a statement to media:
“Donald Trump’s record on education speaks for itself. As president, Trump put Betsy DeVos in charge and worked alongside her to try and gut public education funding every single year he was in office — all while pushing to move billions in taxpayer money to support private schools. Everyone will see right through Donald Trump’s desperate spin about his own record as the GOP field races to out-MAGA each other at the expense of America’s kids.”
Trump faces several investigations and legal battles. Among them is a Congressional inquiry into his role on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to prevent Congress from formalizing the electoral votes to make Joe Biden the 46th U.S. President.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who also has been making stops in Iowa as he contemplates a presidential bid, said Sunday in Washington, D.C., “history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for that day.
In Manhattan, Trump appears to be close to potentially facing criminal charges for his role in hush money paid to a porn star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by Stormy Daniels.
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