Democrats pounce on Trump in bid for rural voters

Democrats pounce on Trump in bid for rural voters
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CLEAR LAKE, Iowa — The sun had barely risen when the first sign-waving, singing and shouting fans of Democratic presidential candidates showed up in this small town of 7,500 residents about 120 miles north of Des Moines.

By the time the doors opened at the historic Surf Ballroom, the street out front was a cacophony of competing bullhorns and chants.

The Democratic candidates themselves, given a mere five minutes to address more than a thousand Iowa Democratic activists from across rural northern parts of the state, pledged to compete in rural counties like Cerro Gordo, which voted Republican in 2016 for the first time since Ronald Reagan was on the ballot in 1980.

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The parade of Democratic hopefuls on Friday highlighted their pledges to help rural areas, and blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE's trade war that has cost farmers in Iowa already struggling to keep their small businesses afloat.

"Trade war by tweet is not working for our farmers," Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (D-Mass.) told Iowa Democrats.

Several candidates, including Warren, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (D-Minn.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package MORE (D-N.Y.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE, released policy proposals this week aiming to address a growing health and economic crisis plaguing rural areas.

"An economic agenda for America should unite rural and urban," Klobuchar said.

Former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyJohn Delaney endorses Biden Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Lobbying world MORE (D-Md.) pointed to his own rural plan, which he rolled out months ago. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report We're at war and need wartime institutions to keep our economy producing what's necessary Larry David: Bernie Sanders should drop out of 2020 race MORE (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperSenate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads Poll shows Daines, Bullock neck and neck in Montana Senate race Progressive challenger: How we overcame Chuck Schumer meddling MORE (D) have rolled out their own plans, and other candidates said they had proven capable of winning areas where Democrats fell flat in 2016.

"The path to victory isn't just through the coasts and the urban areas," Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockPolitics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden moves to unify party before general election Poll shows Daines, Bullock neck and neck in Montana Senate race MORE (D) said. "We need to be competitive both in big areas and in places just like here."

Cerro Gordo County is one of about 30 counties in Iowa that supported former President Obama twice — and then voted for President Trump in 2016. And, like two-thirds of American counties with fewer than 25,000 residents, it has lost population since 2010, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Where the Democratic presidential debates were defined by the sharp contrasts candidates drew with each other, Friday's event — the annual Wing Ding fundraiser — was about making the case for oneself and against Trump.

"This is not a referendum on one guy and one office. This is a referendum on us," said Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.J.), who drew perhaps the event's loudest and most sustained standing ovation. "It is time for America to rise again."

"We will defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country," Sanders said. "We will not defeat Trump unless we have an agenda that speaks to the pain and realities of working families."

Some candidates offered implicit, if muted, contrasts with their rivals. Buttigieg seemed to take a veiled shot at Biden, a man who has held elective office since before the South Bend mayor was born.

"If we want to win, we can't look like we're the party of back to normal," Buttigieg said. He did not name Biden, who has pledged to return to an earlier and more civil era of politics.

Hickenlooper, whose campaign has recently lost several senior staffers as he struggles to distinguish himself in a crowded and diverse field, said it is governors, not senators, who are able to beat a sitting president.

"No sitting senator has ever beaten an incumbent president," Hickenlooper said. "Governors are closer to the people. We balance the budget every year and we get things done."

After Booker, Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar earned the longest sustained standing ovations from a crowd that stayed attentive through a grueling two-and-a-half hour program. Hickenlooper, New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioUS attorney opposes release of inmates in DC Britain releases 4,000 inmates to curb spread of coronavirus  NYC landlord tells tenants in 18 buildings to skip April rent MORE (D) and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) received the least enthusiastic — though respectful — applause.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke slams Texas official who suggested grandparents risk their lives for economy during pandemic Hispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate MORE (D-Texas) appeared by video, explaining his decision to stay home in El Paso after a devastating mass shooting killed nearly two dozen people last weekend.