Des Moines Register
Published 3:13 PM EDT Jun 11, 2019
President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden traded harsh insults and vastly different policy prescriptions as they crisscrossed Iowa on Tuesday, previewing the epic battle to come in 2020 between the president and his Democratic rivals.
The fireworks began before either Trump or Biden took the stage and they continued through the day. Trump questioned Biden's age and called him "weak mentally." Biden shot back hours later by describing Trump as an "existential threat to America."
Trump, who won Iowa by 9 points in 2016, will tout his efforts to promote gasoline with higher blends of ethanol – a popular position with many Iowa farmers – before speaking to a Republican Party dinner. Biden, who polls show is leading a crowded field of Democratic candidates, will attend several events before holding a rally in Davenport.
Trump began blasting Biden before he even boarded Air Force One for the flight to Iowa. Standing on the South Lawn of the White House, the president slammed the candidate, telling reporters: "I like running against people who are weak mentally."
Trump continued: “When a man has to mention my name 76 times in a speech, that means he’s in trouble."
But Biden didn't shy away from taking his own swipe at Trump, calling him an "existential threat to America" during remarks later Tuesday. Biden is attempting to undercut the president's support with the farmers by pointing to the escalating trade war that China that has sent prices for many of their products plummeting.
"I hope his presence here will be a clarifying event because Iowa farmers have been crushed by this tariff war with China," Biden said during his first event. "He thinks that being tough is great. It's really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain."
Iowa, as the first caucus state in the nation, will be critically important for the Democratic primary, where some two dozen candidates are vying for the chance to take on Trump in November. But Iowa will also be in play for the general election. Though Trump won the state in 2016, President Barack Obama carried it in 2008 and 2012.
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Biden was heckled shortly after taking the stage at his first event. As the crowd tried to drown out the protester, Biden invited the person to speak with him after his remarks.
"This is not a Trump rally," he said. "Let him go."
Biden is expected to critique Trump later in the day on health care, immigration, foreign policy and basic decency, according to excerpts of his later remarks.
"Everywhere we turn, it's clear that Trump is shredding what we believe in most," Biden will say during the second Iowa trip of his campaign. "I believe we have to restore those basic values."
Biden is currently an Iowa polling leader, according to a recent Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucus-goers say the former vice president is their first choice for president. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively. No other candidate cracked double digits.
More: Iowa Poll: Biden leads, followed by Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg
Check back for continued coverage of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa.
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