Pence Courts Farm Voters Whose Trump Loyalty Is Starting to Fray
(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Mike Pence tried to shore up support in Iowa with a visit Thursday as the swing state reels from a devastating storm, the coronavirus pandemic and fallout from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
Pence’s trip to the state, which Trump won by nine points but has slipped into battleground territory in the race against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, is his third since May, highlighting its key role in the political landscape.
The vice president’s visit comes three days after one of the most powerful weather events in Iowa history Monday. The storm, with 100 mile-per-hour winds, left three people dead and scores injured, crushing millions of acres of corn and soybeans and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
A half-million businesses and households were without power at one point. By Wednesday night, more than 287,000 customers still had no electricity.
The week’s storms were another headache for grain and soy farmers in Iowa who have faced a loss in demand for their crops. The virus closed restaurants, curbed drivers and shuttered meat plants, all of which eroded sales of crops for food, fuel and feed. Relatively good crop weather until the storms had been a saving grace and damages could take the edge off what was expected to be a record-large U.S. corn crop this year.
Bob Manning of Dallas County, who farms 7,000 acres of row crops and 40,000 hogs, said he experienced extensive damage, including harm to two hog buildings that left 15,000 hogs with no shelter. More than 1,000 acres of corn were damaged.
He said commodity prices are below cost of production.
“It’s really depressing for everybody and we’re going to lose a lot of guys,” Manning said in an interview.
Pence, who isn’t scheduled to visit any damaged farms, met with farmers at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines before two political events -- a Heritage Action town hall focused on police officers and law enforcement, followed by a closed-press Iowa GOP “Stars and Stripes” fund-raising dinner at a suburban country club.
“We are going to stay with you, and we will work with your governor, and your senators to make sure that we bring Iowa all the way back,” Pence said at the fairgrounds.
Damage was still being calculated, but about 10 million of the state’s 23 million acres of corn and soybean crops were affected, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture. About 90% of crops in Iowa are covered by insurance.
“It’s unfortunate, given the fact that we had a phenomenal storm that has destroyed 10 million acres of Iowa cropland, that the vice president would spend his time on a campaign event instead of touring damaged areas,” former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, told reporters.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx are accompanying Pence on the trip, the vice president’s office said.
Trump and Pence will need to rally every vote in Iowa, even as it struggles with multiple disasters. Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said Iowa is one of the few places where a low turnout election benefits Biden, because Democrats there tend to vote in every election. Trump has reserved more than $6 million in campaign ads in Iowa in the general election.
The president won Iowa by nine points in 2016 but now leads by just two points in a Monmouth University Poll published last week.
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