Trump to Democrats: Iowa Is Mine
DES MOINES, Iowa — He easily carried the state during the last general election. His hold on the Senate majority, though marginal, likely faces little to no danger here. He will easily wipe away a small band of little-known candidates mounting primary challenges against the longest of odds to deny him the GOP nomination.
So why was the president of the United States in Des Moines on a Thursday night when he still stands trial for impeachment in Washington? Because Donald Trump had a simple message for the Democrats lining up for a chance to take him on in November: As far as he’s concerned, Iowa belongs to him.
This has never been much in doubt, and the campaign described the red state event as an opportunity to flex its muscles. “This will be a good organizational workout,” Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh told RealClearPolitics beforehand. As another presidential confidant explained, “This is about us, not the Dems.”
But Trump made his speech very much about the dozen Democratic candidates preparing for the first-in-the-nation 2020 contest taking place Monday night in the Hawkeye State.
“The good people of Iowa have had a front-row seat to the lunacy and the madness of the totally sick left,” he declared before accusing Democrats of “not caring about farmers.”
This, he told an adoring crowd while slipping into third person, was why “you should love Trump, with what I've done. We're going to win the great state of Iowa, and it's going to be a historic landslide.” And if the opposite should happen, Trump predicted that “your farms are going to hell, I can tell you right now.”
The crowd packed into the Drake University athletic center regularly erupted with hoots and chants and hollers throughout the night, with an energetic Trump clearly enjoying the interruptions. For their reward, attendees received a more than two-hour populist campaign pitch, one that included 2016 throwbacks and 2020 updates.
The president said Democrats are “sick people” who want open borders and bad trade deals and an overall weaker country. He updated that long-standing argument by saying his opponents are trying to use his impeachment “to nullify your ballots and overthrow the entire system of government.”
Trump was reminiscing about the last election when a supporter shouted, “Hillary for Prison.” The president smiled before wondering aloud, “Wouldn’t we like to run against her?” The assembly cheered, and he added, “Maybe we take another crack at crazy Hillary!”
Returning to the competitors at hand, Trump handed out nicknames: Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg became, with exaggerated pronunciation, "Boot-edge-edge." Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was declared “mini-Mike.” Former Vice President Joe Biden was again dubbed “sleepy Joe.” None of them, the president assured his Iowa supporters, could draw a crowd as large as his.
The president seemed to lay off progressive favorites Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who leads the polls in Iowa, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has slipped to fourth. But the Trump campaign has maintained from the beginning that it doesn’t care who wins the nomination.
“It doesn’t matter to us which nominee gets thrown free from the wreckage on that side,” Murtaugh insisted in a sentiment that Trump later echoed: “We will make sure that they face another crushing defeat.”
For the only third president in U.S. history to be impeached, Trump was remarkably nonchalant, even jovial. Yes, the House voted to impeach him, and the Senate is still considering his fate. But no, it’s nothing like the fate of his predecessors. “Why am I not worried?” he mused. Context, he answered.
“Remember Nixon, it was a dark time,” Trump said, launching into a history lesson. “With Clinton it was not good. With Johnson, a long time ago, none of us remember, it was a very dark time.” Democrats may be obsessed with “a deranged witch hunt impeachment hoax,” he said, but things are good. "We're having the best years in the history of our country and I just got impeached.”
“That,” he continued, “is not going to work. Just watch.” And then the president encouraged the farmers from Iowa to buy “bigger tractors.”
The now-signed USMCA trade deal means that those in agriculture are about to “make a lot of money.” The country is making gains through the trade deal, he said, and the U.S. has “never had a better relationship with China than we do right now.” All of it is “a beautiful story.” And the best is yet to come: “Wait till the end of next year; the growth will astronomical.”
Trump mixed in old favorites while listing new accomplishments, talking about the dangers of open-borders immigration and the importance of a strong military and the need for domestic energy independence. Each of which, he insisted, has improved during his tenure. The president also introduced a familiar face, inviting former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to join him on stage. “Sorry you’ve got so many crazy liberal Democrats running around here in the last year,” she apologized. The crowd cheered. Trump beamed.
As the speech dragged into its second hour, a small portion of supporters trickled off, apparently unable to match the energy of the president on a weeknight. At this, Trump began to wrap up, albeit with a victory lap.
“Look, you know, I could make this speech really short,” he said. “All I’d have had to do is say ‘Uh, hello, Iowa, you have to vote for me. You have no choice. Otherwise, everything you’ve built in your entire life will be gone. Goodbye, Iowa. Have a good time,’” he teased.
“Instead, I worked my ass off up here!” he erupted.
“It’s true! You think this is easy? It’s hot in this room. It wasn’t designed for this many people!”
Law enforcement had started turning away supporters and even credentialed members of the press earlier in the night. The fire marshal, the campaign explained, ordered the doors shut — the venue was beyond capacity.