DES MOINES — Campaigning in Iowa, President Donald Trump touted his administration’s work to help the ethanol industry and farmers in Iowa.
Trump’s administration created a rule that allows gas stations to sell a higher ethanol blend year-round.
But when Trump said during a campaign rally Wednesday night at the airport in Des Moines that “they were killing ethanol,” he would have to be referring to his own administration.
The ethanol industry in Iowa had been feeling pinched in large part because Trump’s environmental agency was granting waivers that allowed large oil companies to skirt the federal ethanol mandate.
“They were killing ethanol,” Trump said. “I made it year-round, 15%, and it’s great stuff.”
Trump’s campaign rally Wednesday night was the first event to feature either presidential candidate in Iowa during the 2020 general election campaign.
Democrat and former U.S. vice president Joe Biden was in Iowa regularly during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, but has not returned since earning his party’s nomination; Trump made an official office visit to Iowa in August to view derecho damage, but did not make a campaign visit here before Wednesday.
Trump won Iowa by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016 — not the 11 points he said during Wednesday’s remarks — but polls on this year’s race in Iowa have consistently showed him virtually neck-and-neck with Biden.
Nationally, Biden leads Trump in polling in many of the battleground states that will help determine the election’s outcome.
“You’re a very powerful state, politically. … You have tremendous influence and tremendous power. You’ve never let me down,” said Trump, who addressed the crowd of thousands for roughly 90 minutes. “We have more enthusiasm now than we ever did four years ago, and we have great polling numbers, although you’ll see fake polling numbers.”
Trump also touted his administration’s financial relief packages for farmers who have been hurting because of falling crop prices — partially attributable to trade tensions created by Trump’s administration renegotiating multiple international trade deals.
Trump recalled farmers telling him in a White House meeting that they do not want government subsidies, only fair trade opportunities.
“I never heard that,” Trump said. “Most people, they don’t care. Call it subsidies, call it cash, they say ‘Give me the money.’ … The farmers are unbelievable. They’re the heart of this nation.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and former Gov. Terry Branstad, who Reynolds succeeded after Branstad was tapped by Trump to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, spoke at the event, heaping praise on Trump.
“If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that leadership matters,” Reynolds said. “It’s why it is critical that we re-elect Donald Trump for four more years.”
Trump’s rally was held as COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Iowa are surging. The rally was held outdoors at the airport. No social distancing measures were in place, and face mask usage was sparse.
Hospitalizations are at their highest point of the pandemic in Iowa, and deaths are increasing as well.
Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 just shy of two weeks ago. His physician has since declared that Trump has tested negative for the virus and is no longer at risk of infecting others.
“Iowa has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, with cases surpassing 100,000 this week and COVID-19 hospitalizations hitting a new high. But President Trump isn’t coming to the Hawkeye State to offer words of comfort to those suffering, or a helping hand to the Iowans who are out of a job, or an actual plan to get the virus under control. Instead, he’s here to spread more lies about the pandemic and distract from his record of failure,” Biden said in a statement issued by his campaign.
“That’s not good enough. Iowans whose lives have been thrown into chaos need real leadership — not more division,” Biden added. “I’ve seen our country through dark times before, helping rescue an economy in crisis. And I’ve fought for the health care protections this administration is battling in the U.S. Supreme Court to undo. We’re better than this moment under President Trump — and as President, I will bring this country together so that we can build back better.”
Trump spent most of the first part of his remarks referring to a New York Post story, published earlier Wednesday, that made allegations about Biden’s son Hunter. As of Wednesday evening, neither the Associated Press, Washington Post nor New York Times had confirmed the New York Post story.
Late in the rally, Trump told the crowd of his plan to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dan Gable, an Iowa wrestling legend as an athlete and coach. Trump recognized Gable, who in turn praised the president.
“This guy’s already a one-time champion,” Gable said of Trump. “But because he’s open for learning, and he’s already very competent, he’s going to be a multi-champion president of the United States of America.”
Early voting in Iowa is already under way. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
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