Relax, Democrats: your nominee will beat Trump in the midwest | Art Cullen

Source: By Art Cullen, The Guardian • Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

warren, biden, sanders
‘The point is to beat the worst president in history, and the conditions are ripe to do so. Just don’t blow it.’ Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

A weekend blizzard and a sub-zero deep freeze helped cool tempers that were reaching boiling point among Democrats. Chill, everyone. Whoever wins the nomination will beat Trump across the struggling midwest.

The Sanders crowd suggested Warren was an elitist. Warren elbowed back with a gender argument. Sanders attacked Biden over social security; Biden countered that he was lying. The snake emojis are out. Old resentments over issues that can’t even be recalled are fed.

The result of it all? Nobody knows.

JD Scholten, running for US congress in Iowa, was in Ames on Saturday when the temperature was -4F. Hundreds came out for the Story County Democrats’ soup supper in the hometown of Iowa State University, a key territory. He asked how many were undecided. Half raised their hands.

A poll one week shows Sanders on top in Iowa. A week later, another poll finds Biden leading, with Amy Klobuchar in the double digits.

Warren, Sanders and Klobuchar are confined to the Senate with two weekends left to campaign ahead of the 3 February caucuses. In their absence, Pete Buttigieg is everywhere all at once, working like a beaver.

Any one of them can beat Trump. The president knows it. That’s why he sent his daughter-in-law Lara Trump to Iowa to make fun of Biden’s stuttering, which endeared him even more to Iowans. Vice-President Mike Pence was dispatched to Iowa this week to shore up the evangelical vote for this philanderer of a president. The Donald himself is expected to invade Iowa just days before the caucus in hopes of changing the subject from his dismal performance. It will only serve to remind us that he was impeached for being a liar. Midwesterners cling to quaint notions of honesty.

The president’s approval rating is underwater in Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. Senator Joni Ernst, the Republican senator, has gone from being very popular to being the third most unpopular senator in the country, with an approval rating of just 37%, behind only Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, according to Morning Consult. All because of Trump.

Since Trump was inaugurated, corn and soybean markets have tanked. Ethanol production is stunted by Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency. Trade wars with the world, especially China, caused layoffs at John Deere in Iowa and slack sales of Harley Davidsons from Wisconsin. It will take years for export markets to recover. Some won’t. New research from the Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson reports that Iowa trailed the nation in new job creation, and that non-metro areas have lost jobs over the past decade.

There is a palpable economic anxiety across the midwest that explains why Bernie Sanders surged to first place in the latest Iowa Poll, considered one of the best. Most of us recognize that 50 years of trickle-down economics is, as Tom Steyer might say, a fraud and a failure.

That poll showing Sanders with a lead was over a week ago, a lifetime in primary politics. The voters I talk to are not paying that much attention to the intramural elbows. They expected that Sanders and Warren had to have some sort of reckoning. The spat died down as quickly as it blew up. It does not appear that Sanders has landed any real body blows on Biden. Klobuchar keeps plugging along and gaining support.

Anybody who thinks they know who will win the Iowa caucuses is full of themselves. The nominee is unlikely to be identified until spring, if then, after New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada and the SEC Super Tuesday primaries, and California.

Unless, of course, these good shooters form a circular firing squad that leaves them all walking wounded.

African American voters will flood the polls in Flint, Michigan, to vote for Pete Buttigieg if he somehow can run the gauntlet. Bernie Sanders will do fine in Wisconsin, the land of famed progressive LaFollette. Elizabeth Warren has shown that she can take a punch and land a roundhouse on any man, especially a lunkhead like Trump. Amy Klobuchar will thump Trump in Iowa, and knows how to speak to a union member in Ohio wondering where the auto plant went. Pennsylvania voters will warm right up to Joe Biden. Even Michael Bloomberg could beat Trump in Colorado.

So chill. Iowa has thinned a huge field and will vault four or five campaigns down the trail. The process has exposed weaknesses and identified strengths. The point is to beat the worst president in history, and the conditions are ripe to do so. Just don’t blow it. That is the main sentiment in Iowa.

  • Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is a Guardian US columnist and author of the book Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland, just released in paperback