DES MOINES — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock used the kickoff political speech at this year’s Iowa State Fair on Thursday to urge Democrats to focus on offering serious solutions to people’s everyday lives rather than “wish-list economics” and personal attacks if they hope to defeat Republican President Donald Trump in 2020.
Bullock’s 20-minute soapbox appearance before an enthusiastic crowd at the fair included a quick recital of his gubernatorial accomplishments, an homage to his family roots in southeast Iowa and a call for common-sense solutions to solve problems facing the nation that are going unaddressed by the Trump administration.
“We expect more out of our preschoolers now than we do the president of the United States,” said Bullock, who urged Americans, fellow Democrats and the media to ignore Trump’s daily tweets that divide and distract from the real challenges people face every day.
“Folks don’t want to hear about fights from 40 years ago, and they also don’t want to hear about what I call wish-list economics — plans that are just written for press releases,” he said in an interview after his speech.
Bullock touted himself as a pro-choice, pro-union, populist Democrat who has won three elections in a red state. He said he did so not by compromising progressive values, but by fighting to deliver real results for the people in his state.
If Democrats are going to win back places they lost in 2016 and beat Trump, they need to fight for serious solutions that will improve the lives of millions of people who Washington has left behind, he said.
Americans, he said, are looking for serious solutions to the problems they face now — not a revolution that might pay off 10 years down the line — but that will require building a lasting coalition to make government work again in ways that make health care accessible and affordable, that will “kick dark money” out of our elections and that will build an economy that works for everyone.
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“We are 178 days from you all taking a big field and throwing it in Harry Potter’s sorting hat and narrowing it down,” Bullock told the Iowa fair crowd. “And I know that you all take this responsibility very, very seriously and ‘Iowa Nice’ is ‘enjoyed you, governor, you’re somewhere on my list.’ Like, well, is that on your list of 37 or is it the top three?”
“Top 3,” a woman in the crowd yelled.
“That’s what I like to hear. I want to earn your support,” he responded. “I will guarantee you if you make me the nominee, I will win California, Massachusetts, Vermont.
“I don’t know if those same senators can make the same guarantee that they can win Montana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania — places we have to win in order to get there and beat Donald Trump.”
Bullock said trade is a big issue in Iowa, and the farmers he has talked to say they are losing money on every acre of soybeans they plant.
Even if there are federal government payments to counter Trump’s tariff war, farmers know they won’t “get that market share back that he lost.”
“We’ve got to be tough on China, but we can’t do it alone,” Bullock said.
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said some Democratic candidates are probably hoping farmers at the fair have forgotten they endorsed the Green New Deal.
“Rest assured we’re going to be there to remind them,” said Kaufmann, who has arranged a Saturday news conference at the fair with GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and several Iowa farmers.
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The Iowa GOP chairman said “by and large” rural Iowans are sticking with the president in his effort to fix trade disputes with China “unless they have a partisan ax to grind.”
“Yes. If you bring in some organic turnip farmer from Johnson County, then, yeah, they’ll give the president a piece of their mind,” Kaufmann said in an interview.
“Farmers understand there’s got to be some short-term pain to change this for long-term gain — and I mean generational change,” he said.
“If the tariffs are hurting farmers right now, the Green New Deal would destroy them. I mean we’re talking about the difference between a firecracker and an atomic bomb and, believe me, farmers get that.”
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