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 TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades 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 Ann WarrenBiden: 'I'd add' Warren to my list of potential VP picks Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades How can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? MORE (D-Mass.) told Iowa Democrats.

Several candidates, including Warren, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Minn.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWhite House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers Bloomberg on 2020 rivals blasting him for using his own money: 'They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money' Harris posts video asking baby if she'll run for president one day MORE (D-N.Y.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden: Buttigieg 'doesn't have significant black support even in his own city' Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states 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 Kevin DelaneyDelaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates 2020 Democrats thank Harris for friendship, candidacy after senator drops out MORE (D-Md.) pointed to his own rural plan, which he rolled out months ago. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHow can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states Buttigieg campaign says 2000 people attended Iowa rally MORE (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Buttigieg 'doesn't have significant black support even in his own city' Biden: 'I'd add' Warren to my list of potential VP picks How can top Democrats run the economy with no business skill? MORE and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment enters new crucial phase Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate 2020 hopes rise for gun control groups after Virginia elections 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 BullockThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached Steve Bullock exits: Will conservative Democrats follow? 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 BookerSunday shows — Nadler: A jury would convict Trump in 'three minutes flat' Booker on Harris dropping out: 'Iowa voters should have the right to choose' Booker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race 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 BlasioMayor accuses de Blasio of dumping New York's homeless in Newark Conservatives must absolutely talk politics at the Thanksgiving table Booker campaign announces six-figure ad buy to qualify for December debate MORE (D) and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) received the least enthusiastic — though respectful — applause.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeButtigieg picks up third congressional endorsement from New York lawmaker Klobuchar hires staff in Nevada Deval Patrick enters 2020 race 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.