DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President Donald Trump is serving up counterprogramming to his impeachment trial on Thursday by promoting his new trade deal and rallying supporters in two Midwestern states that he views as crucial to his reelection.
Trump addressed workers at a manufacturing plant in Michigan to celebrate the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that he signed into law a day earlier. From there, he flew to Iowa for a campaign rally in Des Moines ahead of Monday’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
But during his visit to Dana Industries in Warren, Michigan, one of the largest U.S.-based suppliers to vehicle manufacturers, Trump couldn't hide his anger over the impeachment trial. He complained that the Senate trial was overshadowing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and he recounted tax cuts and economic gains under his presidency.
“And what do they do? They impeach you. Explain — explain that one," he said to boos. “But we have great Republicans out there, and they don't like it any better than you do. A very partisan situation.”
Trump began to grumble that he wasn't getting enough credit soon after landing in Michigan. He took to Twitter to tout the USMCA as the “BIGGEST TRADE DEAL EVER MADE" but railed that the media “barely mentioned it.”
The White House says that the trade deal — the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement — will lead to 76,000 new jobs for the U.S. auto industry alone, and he boasted of big improvements in manufacturing under his watch.
"For decades, politicians, they campaigned all across Michigan promising to do something about NAFTA — and I call it the NAFTA disaster — only to get elected and do absolutely nothing," Trump said of the Democrats. He added: “I just want to say I kept my promise, and not only my promise in loving the people of Michigan and all over the country, but my promise of taking care of it so that other countries aren't ripping us off.”
But the data show Michigan offers Trump a mixed picture.
Until early last year, Michigan's factories could be a point of pride for Trump as the state had added more than 22,000 manufacturing jobs since the start of 2017. But the auto sector began to retool for an era of electronic vehicles last year and layoffs were announced, while the tariffs of the Trump administration and slower global growth created uncertainty for business owners.
Michigan manufacturers have shed 5,300 jobs in the past 12 months that ended in December, according to the Labor Department. Still, the state overall has posted job growth over the past year.
As the president heads to Iowa, four of the Democratic contenders looking to replace him have been forced to step off the campaign trail to serve as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado are among those seeking the Democratic nomination.
Trump also is on the ballot, though he's not facing serious GOP competition. His campaign views Monday’s Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary as presenting both a challenge to meet sky-high expectations and an opportunity to flex political strength.
Both Democrats and Republicans would love to win Iowa. President Barack Obama captured the state twice, while Trump brought it back to the GOP in 2016. Democrats made gains there during the 2018 midterms and are hoping to return it — and other crucial Midwestern states — to their column in November.
The campaign will launch an all-out surrogate offensive in Iowa following the Des Moines rally. In New Hampshire, the campaign is conducting a monthlong test of its voter turnout operation, including 10,000 volunteer phone calls and dozens of volunteer training sessions. It will culminate in a Trump rally in Manchester on the eve of the vote.
Vice President Mike Pence did not shy away from the impeachment issue as he warmed up the Iowa crowd before Trump's appearance. He said Democrats are trying to “run down" the president because they know they can't run against him successfully.
“But don't worry about it," Pence said. “House Democrats had their say in December. Senate Republicans are going to have their say real soon.”
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