Government

Health issue masks Democrats' concern about weak Biden campaign, Trump surrogates say in Cedar Rapids

Dems contend GOP Iowa bus tour 'incredibly dangerous'

Matt Whitaker, former acting U.S. attorney general, on Thursday encourages supporters of President Donald Trump in Cedar
Matt Whitaker, former acting U.S. attorney general, on Thursday encourages supporters of President Donald Trump in Cedar Rapids to work harder than they’ve worked in any previous campaign to ensure the president’s re-election. Whitaker is participating in a Trump campaign bus tour of Iowa this week that stopped at the GOP’s Linn County campaign office on Boyson Road in northeast Cedar Rapids. Others on the bus were (from left) Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America; Eric Branstad, senior adviser to the campaign; and Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union. (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Presidential campaigns owe it to the voters to hit the campaign trail and meet voters — even during a pandemic, according to a team of President Donald Trump supporters on a bus tour of Iowa this week.

The Trump bus is on a 12-stop tour of the state, including a visit to Cedar Rapids on Thursday morning where American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp joked there were more people at the GOP’s Linn County campaign office “on a rainy Thursday in Iowa than at Joe Biden’s acceptance speech.”

The tour is no laughing matter for the Iowa Democratic Party, which called it a “celebration of Trump’s failure” to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Not only is the tour “incredibly dangerous,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Mark Smith said, but “is nothing short of tone-deaf as 76,000 Iowans are still out-of-work from Trump’s failure to contain the virus that led to the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression.”

Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, responded, “I guess that means we’re being effective or they wouldn’t have bothered” issuing a news release.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine also pushed back on the Democrats’ criticism.

“Listen, everybody has their own individual choice,” she said. “Those who may have a higher likelihood or have underlying health conditions, please join us for events online, enjoy the movement from home.

“But we absolutely take safety and security and the health of the American people very seriously on this campaign,” Perrine said. “And that’s something we’re going to continue to do.”

More than half of those at the indoor rally were not wearing masks.

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However, the real issue, Schlapp said, is that Democrats don’t want a traditional campaign because they know their nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, isn’t up to it.

“They have done everything they possibly could to not engage and have a real campaign for the American people,” Schlapp said. “So this line on the question of health just falls conveniently into what they want to do on all this. They would like there to be no events from either candidate. No bus tours. No engagement of the American people.

“It would be a phony, no debate, TV video kind of campaign, and that is simply not consistent with the American experience,” he said. “We’ve got to engage the voters. We owe it to the American people to explain what Donald Trump wants to get done in a second term.”

The campaign and how and where it is waged is bigger than Trump and “definitely bigger than this Joe Biden person,” Schlapp told supporters at the GOP’s Linn County campaign office.

“It’s bigger than the men,” Schlapp said. “In Trump’s heart, the cause is the country. He’s doing this because he doesn’t want our country to surrender to the scourge, to the cancer of socialism. And that’s what this is about.”

The bus tour will continue with an 11:50 a.m. stop Friday at the Iowa Firefighters Memorial, 1370 First Ave., in Coralville.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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