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 TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.) told Iowa Democrats.

Several candidates, including Warren, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Warren leads in speaking time during debate MORE (D-Minn.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLobbying world 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' MORE (D-N.Y.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years 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 DelaneyWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown MORE (D-Md.) pointed to his own rural plan, which he rolled out months ago. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperGardner dodges questions about Trump's call for Biden probe 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' 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 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy 5 things to watch in the latest Democratic debate Warren expresses support for Indigenous Peoples' Day 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 BookerWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first 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 Blasio2020 Presidential Candidates Cooperate, or else: New York threatens fines to force people to help block immigration enforcement DNC raises qualifying thresholds for fifth presidential debate MORE (D) and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) received the least enthusiastic — though respectful — applause.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first 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.