OTTUMWA — The verbal jousting between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden happened on Iowa’s political stage Tuesday — although the two were never closer than 200 miles of one another.
Biden went first, during an early afternoon speech in Ottumwa, saying the man he’s running to replace in 2021 makes “the wrong choices” and “is an existential threat to America.”
“Iowa farmers have been crushed by his tariff war with China,” Biden said. “…He thinks being tough is great. Well, it’s really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain.”
Trump visited an ethanol plant near Council Bluffs a few hours later to mark his administration’s move to allow year-round sale of E15, gas with 15 percent ethanol.
“America must never again be held hostage to foreign suppliers of energy as we were under the Obama/Biden ‘Sleepy Joe’ group,” Trump said. “Sleepy Joe.”
Trump later said the people who are running against Biden for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination “don’t respect” Biden.
“He was some place in Iowa today and he said my name so many times that people couldn’t stand it anymore. ‘No, don’t keep saying it,’” Trump said, putting his hands over his ears.
Biden, during his speech in Ottumwa, suggested Trump was using Americans as “pawns” in a trade war.
“You know he says, ‘Let’s make America great again,’” Biden said. “Let’s make America America again.”
Biden went on to events in Mount Pleasant and Davenport, while Trump spoke at an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser in West Des Moines tonight, asking the crowd which campaign slogan he should use in 2020.
“Make America Great Again,” Trump said and the crowd cheered. “Keep America Great,” Trump said and the crowd cheered louder. “It slightly beats it out, right?…You know polls don’t mean a damn thing…Did anybody ever prove it like we proved it?”
Trump spoke for about 45 minutes at the party fundraiser, but did not mention Biden by name.
Both men mentioned Iowa’s role in choosing presidents. Biden’s reference was to Iowa’s Caucuses, the first test in the presidential campaign.
“Iowa is a critical, critical state,” Biden said. “…I see all these polls…They don’t mean a thing right now..This is a marathon and the marathon is just beginning, but at the end of the day, if you can’t cross the line in Iowa, you don’t win the marathon.”
Trump closed his speech this evening by saying he’d kept his promise to keep Iowa’s Caucuses “at the center of the action” when it comes to picking presidents.
“The backyards and living rooms and town halls and fairgrounds and diners and coffee shops all across the state,” Trump said, “you’ll be the ones to shape America’s future.”
Trump addressed a crowd of more than 700 who paid $250 a ticket or $500 for special seating in the banquet hall. In a separate area, Trump posed for photos with people who paid an undisclosed amount for a picture with the president.
Biden’s campaign swing continues Wednesday with an event this morning in Clinton.