DES MOINES, Iowa — President Donald Trump brought his reelection campaign to Des Moines Thursday deep in the heart of the state that kicks off the 2020 campaign season with its precinct caucuses on Monday.
He characterized the coming election as a choice between good and evil.
“This election is a choice between American freedom and democratic socialism,” Trump said. “America will never be a socialist country.”
Trump extolled the benefits Iowa farmers will reap from to the just-approved U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which he called “the biggest trade deal in the history of the world.”
Speaking of farmers, he said, “You’re going to make a lot of money” from the USMCA and the China trade agreement.
Trump’s rally in Des Moines was aimed at countering the message Iowans have been hearing from Democratic candidates, and he couldn’t resist taking shots at “Sleepy Joe” Biden, “Crazy Bernie” Sanders and “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren. He made fun of Pete Buttigieg’s name – “Boot Edge Edge” – whom he called the mayor of a failing city. “They call him Mayor Pete because they can’t pronounce his name.”
While Washington, D.C., is consumed by impeachment, Trump said he has achieved his goals as president.
“We are having the best year in American history, and I got impeached!” he said.
“Washington has spent the last three years trying to overturn the last election. Today, I hit my highest poll numbers since I got elected. The American people know it’s a hoax. The Democrats are trying to overturn the last election. We are going to give them a crushing defeat in November. Together we are going to win back the House and hold the Senate.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who appeared on the stage ahead of Trump, praised the administration’s accomplishments:
“In three short years, we have made American great again,” Pence said, adding he and Trump need four more years from voters. “Four more years means more jobs, more judges and support for our troops.”
People had begun lining up outside the Drake University Knapp Center more than a day ahead of the rally, and the lines snaked into the building for hours ahead of the 7 p.m. start. Red MAGA hats and other Trump campaign materials were hawked on the streets, and the arena turned red with Trump hats and shirts.
In a warm-up speech to the crowd, which was packed to the rafters of Drake’s 7,152-seat basketball arena, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann stoked a deafening cheer with the words, “Welcome to Trump country!”
It is hard to argue with that, at least among Trump’s fan base here.
Trump won Iowa by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016 after the state twice went for Barack Obama, in 2008 and 2012, and he’s still hugely popular with Iowa Republicans, according to the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll in November.
His overall job approval was 85% among Iowa Republicans in that poll, which was up 4 percentage points from March 2019. The percentage of those who say they will definitely vote to re-elect him was up 9 percentage points to 76%.
Indeed, 41% of registered Republicans surveyed said they felt more allegiance to Trump than to the Republican Party, while 43% said they felt more allegiance to the party and 16% were unsure.
Vice President Mike Pence went on a bus tour across Iowa earlier Thursday prior to joining the president in Des Moines. He began with an appearance in Sioux City speaking at an Evangelicals for Trump event, then on to Council Bluffs to speak to Veterans for Trump before heading to Des Moines.
Trump’s and Pence’s appearances here were evidence that the campaign is not taking Iowa for granted, and they have a robust caucus strategy on the same night as Iowa Democrats caucus.
Trump administration officials and the president’s supporters will fan out across the state Monday to fire up Republicans.
The roster of Trump surrogates expected to be in the state Monday includes White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Cabinet members including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
In addition, members of Congress will make appearances, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., as well as Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and governors from surrounding states, according to the Wall Street Journal.