It’s 17 months until the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but Tuesday in Iowa might feel like voting is near, with Republican President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democrat seeking to oust him, holding rallies in the midwestern farm state.
Trump and Biden, both in their 70s, have spent weeks firing verbal taunts at each other from a distance, jabbing at each other’s character, policies and demeanor. The twin visits appear to be coincidental and the candidates will not come within 160 kilometers of each other, but the rhetoric will fly across the vast fields in the state.
Trump, who declared he was running for a second four-year term in the White House just as he was inaugurated in 2017 for his first, is visiting the western side of the state to talk about renewable energy. Then he flies to central Des Moines, the state’s biggest city with more than 200,000 residents, for a dinner and fundraiser with state Republicans. Biden is visiting three communities in the eastern part of the state, Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant and Davenport.
Aides say Trump often worries about Biden’s appeal to working class voters, fearing that Biden as an opponent in the November 3 election next year could cut into Trump’s support that helped him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Trump often calls the Democrat “Sleepy Joe Biden,” and recently derided him as a “low IQ individual,” which he said was a purported defense of him after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called Biden a “low IQ idiot.” He has denounced Biden from the lawn of the White House, on Twitter and from overseas.
For his part, Biden, who served eight years as former President Barack Obama’s vice president, recently said he won’t get in to a “mud wrestling match” with Trump.
But then he added, “There’s so many nicknames I’m inclined to give this guy, you can just start with clown.”
Biden is no sure thing to become the Democratic presidential nominee, but he has consistently led 22 other Democratic presidential contenders in national surveys a half year ahead of the first party contests to eventually pick Trump’s opponent.
“You know, Donald Trump and I are both in Iowa today,” Biden said in prepared remarks for his Davenport event. “It wasn’t planned that way, but I hope Trump’s presence here will be a clarifying event.”
I’m headed to eastern Iowa this week to talk with voters about our vision for the future. Head to https://t.co/r0RlGWdvLe to RSVP to an event in your community.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 10, 2019
Biden mentions Trump’s name 44 times in the speech, telling voters, “Trump doesn’t get the basics. He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China. Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs. The cashiers at Target see what’s going on; they know more about economics than Trump.”
Biden’s conclusion: “I believe Trump is an existential threat to America.”