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 TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' 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 WarrenKrystal Ball: Elites have chosen Warren as The One; Lauren Claffey: Is AOC wrong about the Electoral College? Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster MORE (D-Mass.) told Iowa Democrats.

Several candidates, including Warren, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program ABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill MORE (D-Minn.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program Sanders targets gig economy as part of new labor plan Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill MORE (D-N.Y.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona ABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate National poll finds tight race between Biden, Sanders and Warren 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 DelaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Delaney: 'It feels like some Democrats are cheering on a recession' Delaney shakes up top campaign staff MORE (D-Md.) pointed to his own rural plan, which he rolled out months ago. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona MORE (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona Giuliani says he discussed Biden with Ukrainian official MORE and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Inslee drops out of 2020 presidential race 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 BullockCan Steve Bullock win? Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Sunday shows - Recession fears dominate 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 BookerOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program ABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate Sanders targets gig economy as part of new labor plan 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 de Blasio, the small business killer The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts De Blasio's video snafu earns laughter in Iowa MORE (D) and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) received the least enthusiastic — though respectful — applause.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash 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.