Government

Trump wields ethanol against Democrats at Iowa rally

In stumping for GOP, he asserts opponents will end it

U.S. President Donald Trump embraces Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as he holds a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Donald Trump embraces Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as he holds a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S., October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
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COUNCIL BLUFFS — President Donald Trump brought a new voter turnout strategy to his rally Tuesday night on the Iowa-Nebraska border, warning without evidence weeks before the midterm elections that Democrats would “take away your ethanol.”

Trump held the rally here a day after his administration announced an effort to boost the production of corn-based ethanol with a plan that includes removing the restriction on the sale a higher blend of ethanol during the summer months and targeting abuse of the federal renewable fuel law.

Biofuel and agriculture leaders and farm-state elected officials and candidates — from both major political parties — praised the move.

But at the rally, Trump made an unsubstantiated claim that Democrats — and specifically Fred Hubbell, the Democratic candidate for governor — do not support ethanol programs.

“I kept a major promise to the people of Iowa and Nebraska ... and my administration is protecting ethanol,” Trump said. “The Democrats will end ethanol. They will take it away. They will find a way to take it away. ... You better get out there and vote for Republicans.”

After Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke, Trump targeted her opponent in this fall’s election.

“He wants to take away your ethanol,” Trump said of Hubbell.

Ethanol-promoting programs generally have received broad bipartisan support in Iowa.

Most confrontations over such programs are at the larger regional level — usually between agricultural and oil-producing states.

For example, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican whose re-election this fall Trump is supporting, is against ethanol mandates.

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When the Trump administration announced its plan to remove restrictions on the E15 ethanol blend, multiple Iowa Democratic officeholders and candidates including Hubbell expressed support.

But some also included separate criticisms for the administration’s ag and trade policies.

“Opening the door to the year-round sale of E15 is a long overdue step, and one I have supported for years,” Hubbell said in a statement. “Increasing demand for ethanol by opening the summer window for E15 would help Iowa’s corn producers, agricultural economy and make cleaner air. However, I am dismayed that despite this announcement the implementation is not immediate, and the process could take years, including potential regulatory and legal delays.”

Indeed, a federal rule change allowing the year-round sales could take months.

“I feel certain this rule can be accomplished before the driving season next year,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told the Reuters news service in an interview.

And it may bring lawsuits from oil interests contending such a change can be made only by Congress. The oil industry had been holding out for many more concessions in exchange for agreeing to support the E15 move.

In introducing Reynolds at the rally, Trump called her “a rising star in the Republican Party and in politics.”

“Wow, does she have my endorsement. She’s incredible,” Trump said.

Trump also called on Iowa voters to support Reynolds and Republican U.S. House incumbents Rod Blum and David Young, both of whom are in hotly contested re-election races.

Young spoke at the event; Blum was not in attendance. Trump also praised 4th District U.S. Rep. Steve King, who attended but did not speak, and whom Trump called “maybe the world’s most conservative human being.”

Trump, however, may have wondered how effective was his plea to voters in this particular bi-state crowd. He observed far more people cheered mentions of Nebraska than Iowa.

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“I could go on all night, but I want to get the hell out of here, OK? Because I thought I was coming to Iowa, but there’s more people from Nebraska,” Trump said.

The Council Bluffs area includes an Iowa Statehouse district that swung by 20 points from Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and in the process took out Mike Gronstal, the longtime Democratic leader of the Iowa Senate.

GOP Iowa Sen. Dan Dawson, who knocked off Gronstal in 2016, spoke at the rally.

Trump opened by celebrating the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump praised Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley for his stewardship of the contentious hearings over the nomination of Kavanaugh, who was accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. A brief FBI investigation could not corroborate the woman’s claims, several senators said.

Trump called Grassley “an Iowa legend whose backbone and leadership made this great victory possible” and “a very tough cookie.”

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