COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- President Donald Trump brought a new voter turnout tactic to his rally Tuesday night on the Iowa-Nebraska border, warning without evidence that Democrats would “take away your ethanol.”
Trump held the rally here one day after his administration announced an effort to boost the production of corn-based ethanol with a plan that includes removing the restriction on the sale of a specific ethanol blend during the summer months and targeting abuse of the federal ethanol mandate.
Industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for office -- from both political parties -- praised the announcement.
But at Tuesday night’s rally, Trump made an unsubstantiated claim that Democrats and specifically Fred Hubbell, the Democratic candidate for Iowa governor, do not support ethanol-promoting programs.
“I kept a major promise to the people of Iowa and Nebraska ... and my administration is protecting ethanol,” Trump said. “The Democrats will end ethanol. They will take it away. They will find a way to take it away. ... You better get out there and vote for Republicans.”
After Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke, Trump targeted Reynolds’ opponent in this fall’s election.
“He wants to take away your ethanol,” Trump said of Hubbell.
Ethanol-promoting programs generally have received broad bipartisan support in Iowa. Most objections to such programs are at the regional level, between agricultural and oil-producing states. For example, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican whose re-election Trump is supporting, has lobbied against ethanol mandates.
When the Trump administration announced its plan to remove restrictions on the E-15 ethanol blend, multiple Iowa Democratic office-holders and candidates -- including Hubbell -- expressed support for the move. Some also included separate criticisms for the administration’s ag and trade policies.
“Opening the door to the year-round sale of E-15 is a long-overdue step, and one I have supported for years,” Hubbell said in a statement. “Increasing demand for ethanol by opening the summer window for E-15 would help Iowa’s corn producers, agricultural economy and make cleaner air. However, I am dismayed that despite this announcement the implementation is not immediate, and the process could take years, including potential regulatory and legal delays.”
In introducing her, Trump called Reynolds “a rising star in the Republican Party and in politics.”
“Wow does she have my endorsement. She’s incredible,” Trump said of Reynolds.
Trump also called on Iowa voters to support Reynolds and Republican congressional incumbent candidates Rod Blum and David Young, both of whom are in hotly contested re-election races.
Young spoke at the event; Blum was not in attendance. Trump also praised 4th District U.S. Rep. Steve King, who attended the event but did not speak, and whom Trump called “maybe the world’s most conservative human being.”
Trump, however, may have wondered how effective was his plea to voters in this particular bi-state crowd. He observed far more people cheered to mentions of Nebraska than for Iowa.
“I could go on all night, but I want to get the hell out of here, OK? Because I thought I was coming to Iowa, but there’s more people from Nebraska,” Trump said.
The Council Bluffs area includes an Iowa statehouse district that swung by 20 percentage points from Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and in the process took out Mike Gronstal, the longtime Democratic leader of the Iowa Senate. GOP Iowa Sen. Dan Dawson, who knocked off Gronstal in 2016, spoke at Tuesday night’s rally.
Trump opened the rally by celebrating the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump praised Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley for his stewardship of the contentious hearings over the nomination of Kavanaugh, who was accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. A brief FBI investigation could not corroborate the woman’s claims.
Trump called Grassley “an Iowa legend whose backbone and leadership made this great victory possible,” and “a very tough cookie.”