ANKENY, Iowa – Standing before a barn festooned with a giant American flag, Sen. Amy Klobuchar launched a four-day presidential campaign swing through Iowa Wednesday by offering a new proposal to revitalize rural America and the farm economy.
The Minnesota senator’s campaign said the initiative is intended to help bridge America’s urban-rural divide with a host of proposals geared for farmers and other rural residents.
“I come at this with a simple premise: Kids that grow up in rural America should be able to live in rural America,” she said. “That’s a good way to begin how we think about all of this.”
Klobuchar used the policy announcement to kick off her longest stretch to date of stumping across Iowa for the Democratic nomination. The state’s first-in-the-nation caucus — held next year on Feb. 3 — makes it a major focus of presidential campaigns every four years. As a senator from neighboring Minnesota, Klobuchar is banking that a strong showing here could help launch her into contention for the nomination.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, also making a big play for Iowa’s support, rolled out her own, $200 billion spending plan for rural communities on Wednesday. Like Klobuchar, she also embarked on a four-day tour of Iowa. Vice President Joe Biden spoke in Iowa on Wednesday as well, and the state is expecting an influx of Democratic candidates in the coming days with the Iowa State Fair starting Thursday.
“Iowans are lucky to have many good candidates asking for their support,” said Peter Leo, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Carroll County, where Klobuchar spoke Wednesday afternoon.
Klobuchar’s plan would expand farm subsidies to offset lower commodity prices, aim a host of safety net programs at small and beginning farmers, and work to connect all U.S. households to broadband internet. She also promised to make major investments in rural infrastructure and transportation, strengthen antitrust efforts against agricultural consolidation, bolster rural hospitals, expand rural rental assistance and housing supply, boost rural child care, and promote homegrown energy and conservation.
Klobuchar’s campaign did not reveal a price tag for her proposal.
Preya Samsundar, a Des Moines-based spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, criticized Klobuchar for co-sponsoring the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to tackle climate change and economic inequality.
“Rural Iowans will not look kindly on Klobuchar’s candidacy and her support for the Green New Deal that would destroy agriculture, government-run health care, and plans to roll back middle-class tax cuts,” Samsundar said.
In courting rural support, Klobuchar criticized Trump’s handling of trade policy and its consequences for farmers.
“The trade war is hitting harder,” Klobuchar said. “I’m not going to treat our farms and farmers like chips in some bankrupt casino.”
At stops at the Ankeny farm, on the edge of a suburb of Des Moines, and at a sandwich shop in Carroll, Klobuchar also talked about gun control in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. She renewed calls for universal background checks and longer waiting periods for gun purchases.
“It’s important that we talk about this not only in urban areas,” Klobuchar said in Ankeny. She said none of the gun-control measures she supports would be detrimental to hunters.
Despite her focus on Iowa, where she’s got a team of paid campaign staffers, Klobuchar to date has remained in low single digits in Iowa polls. Her trip to Iowa this week will be her longest stretch of time spent in the state so far, with more than two dozen stops planned between Wednesday and Saturday in 20 Iowa counties.
The visit culminates Saturday at the Iowa State Fair, where Klobuchar will speak and later serve as “Celebrity Chef” at the Iowa Pork Producers’ tent.
Klobuchar said she’s ready to tell Democratic voters in urban areas, the heart of the party’s base, that they must understand there is pain and need in rural America.
“I think one of the things we have to bring back to our whole country is respect for rural America,” she said.