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AFP
June 12, 2019

Biden, Trump duel for blue collar votes in Iowa

World

AFP
June 12, 2019

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump and his leading Democratic challenger Joe Biden were to deliver duelling speeches on Tuesday across the important 2020 battleground state of Iowa in a foretaste of what promises to be a bad tempered and volatile presidential election.

Biden, 76, called his presence in the midwestern state on the same day as Trump, 72, a coincidence. But his speech will aim at the core of the Republican president’s narrative, branding Trump "an existential threat to America."

Far from championing American blue collar workers and farmers, as he repeatedly claims, Trump has made them "pawns" in tariff wars with countries ranging from rival China to close trading ally Mexico, Biden is due to say.

"He thinks he’s being tough. Well, it’s easy to be tough when someone else is feeling the pain," Biden says of Trump, according to the advance text of the speech he will deliver during an intense tour of the state.

Biden, who spent decades in Congress and served as vice president under Barack Obama, describes Trump as an out-of-touch "rich guy." "Trump may think Wall Street and the super rich built this country. I don’t. I think this country was built by you, by the working people of this nation, by America’s great middle class," Biden says in the text of the speech.

A real estate developer who has always burnished his image as a high-living tycoon, Trump relies heavily on blue collar voters buying into his nationalist slogan of "America First". In his trip to Iowa, the president will visit an ethanol plant to tout his backing for the biofuel, supplied by Iowa’s politically important farmers. Later, he will address a Republican party dinner.

Somewhere along the trail, he will almost certainly lay into the man he likes to insult as "creepy" and "sleepy Joe." According to Trump, Biden and the nearly two dozen other Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to seek the presidency next year, are the ones out of touch with left-leaning economic and social policies.

And far from regretting his bruising trade war strategy, the president is on something of a high after Mexico said it was agreeing to his demand for more action against migrants flocking to the United States in order to avoid threatened tariffs.

Calling himself "very happy" with the deal, Trump tweeted on Tuesday that his far bigger tariffs war with China would be equally successful. "China is similar, except they devalue currency and subsidise companies to lessen effect of 25% Tariff. So far, little effect to consumer. Companies will relocate to U.S.," he tweeted. Trump officially kicks off his reelection campaign next week at a Florida rally.

In reality, he has never stopped campaigning since he entered the White House after a shock win over the widely predicted winner of the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton. Backed by the incumbency and a booming economy, Trump should be a heavy favourite in 2020.

But his presidency has so polarized the country and energised opponents that previous electoral patterns could be upended. Biden, meanwhile, holds a strong lead in the Democratic nomination contest, but that is partly due to overwhelming name recognition -- an advantage that will steadily erode.

He is also struggling to maintain his centrist platform when the most active section of the Democratic Party veers strongly to the left, boosting the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

An issue facing both Trump and Biden is their age. Trump revels in boasting about his energy. "I am a young, vibrant man," he said in April, baiting the slightly older Biden. But Democratic candidates in their 40s and 50s -- and even 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg -- could yet seize the momentum and make their youth an issue in a country where many Democrats yearn for radical change.

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