Trump in trouble



Iowa caucus campaigns kick into a higher gear with Labor Day. The field has been focused by a deadline imposed by the Democratic National Committee that allows only half the candidates on the next debate stage. Of the 10 candidates left, many would beat President Trump — one poll (Quinnipiac) showed Biden, Warren and Sanders blowing him out in a landslide, others are more modest but maintain that Trump does not fare well with any matchup.

Another reputable polling outfit (Morning Consult) reported that Trump’s net unfavorable ratings are in the negative double digits in the dozen swing states — he was underwater by 11 percentage points in Iowa when the poll was taken, and that was before he waived ethanol blending requirements for 31 refineries. The Iowa Corn Growers proclaimed that they were “fed up” with the administration’s ethanol policy. Polls aren’t everything, but when wheat growers are booing Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue over his joke that they are whiners, you know the President is in trouble in rural America.

John Deere has issued profit cautions to investors and said it will trim production by 20% because of the ongoing trade wars. The big green tractor maker is the largest manufacturer in Iowa. Almost every other manufacturer from Racine to Ypsilanti is in the same fix, and they are laying off steel workers in Pennsylvania.

The polls tend to back up what we hear out in the sticks.

They tell us that Joe Biden maintains a lead. While people aren’t exactly fired up about him, they are certainly familiar and comfortable with him. Elizabeth Warren appears to be building a juggernaut, attracting 500 people in Fort Dodge mid-State Fair Week. (She drew 12,000 in Minneapolis, hello Sen. Klobuchar.) Bernie Sanders is well-funded and well-organized, and his supporters are tenacioius. Biden might not be polling as well in Iowa as he is nationally. He has not made the effort here that other campaigns have, but his support remains strong especially among older voters, and that is who attends a caucus. Warren and Sanders are well-suited to the progressive populist base of the Iowa party. They feel more like Tom Harkin, and most in the party would kill to have him back.

Any of the leading candidates is electable. We can imagine that the United States could have its first openly gay President. Pete Buttigieg does well against Trump. The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was most electable, until Barack Obama trudged into Iowa. Beto O’Rourke was lagging but has made a bit of a comeback with his scathing indictments of Trump’s moral bankruptcy.

Just a third of Americans, in the polling we have seen, think that Trump has dealt well with immigration or race relations. The reaction to the trade wars has been overwhelmingly negative. Iowa has the most export-sensitive economy in the United States — and now China has said it will not buy our soybeans, period. GM shut down the Chevy Cruze plant in Youngstown, Ohio. The economy in Davenport is not rocking as hard as it is in Miami.

The Midwest won Trump the election because residents here are fed up with a system that has been acting against their interests for decades. They thought Trump might blow things up to bring the change that President Obama promised but could not deliver. We came back to our senses in the 2018 mid-term elections and put a check on the Administration by electing a Democratic House. That was not so long ago.

Trump pledged to lift up Midwest manufacturing and agriculture, and he has done the very opposite. The polls put data behind what we sense: Donald Trump is a one-term reality show whose cancellation date is near.

The question is not whether Trump survives but how big the wave will be. Will it consume Sen. Joni Ernst after the Democrats run those pictures of her kissing Trump and hugging Steve King? And what will happen to Steve King, who this week joked about the Chinese force-feeding pork to Muslims? It doesn’t look good for him. Better days are ahead.

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