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'Existential threat to America': Joe Biden, Donald Trump trade insults in Iowa face off

President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden traded harsh insults and vastly different policy prescriptions as they crisscrossed Iowa on Tuesday, previewing the epic battle to come in 2020 between the president and his Democratic rivals.  

The fireworks began before either Trump or Biden took the stage and they continued throughout the day in split-screen coverage. Trump questioned Biden’s age and called him “weak mentally.” Biden described Trump as an “existential threat to America.”

Trump, who won Iowa by 9 points in 2016, touted his efforts to promote gasoline with higher blends of ethanol – a popular position with many Iowa farmers – and spoke to a Republican Party dinner. Biden, who polls show is leading a crowded field of Democratic candidates, attended several events before holding a rally in Davenport.

“Only I can fix it,” Biden said mocking Trump during the rally, before adding: “Fix yourself.”

Trump began blasting Biden before he even boarded Air Force One for the flight to Iowa. Standing on the South Lawn of the White House, the president slammed the candidate, telling reporters: “I like running against people who are weak mentally.” 

The president continued: “When a man has to mention my name 76 times in a speech, that means he’s in trouble.”

In a surprising turn, Trump never mentioned Biden during a roughly hour-long speech to the state Republican Party late Tuesday. Staying on script, the president ran through talking points on the economy, veterans, immigration and the appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court.    

“They’re going crazy,” Trump said of the Democrats at one point. “Do you love it? I sort of love it.”

But Biden didn’t shy away from taking his own swipes at Trump, and he repeatedly fired away at the president during his own, competing rally. 

Biden is attempting to undercut the president’s support with the farmers by pointing to the escalating trade war that China that has sent prices for many of their products plummeting. 

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In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Joe Biden addresses rhetoric used by Donald Trump, on May 1, 2019.
Kelsey Kremer, kkremer@dmreg.com

“I hope his presence here will be a clarifying event because Iowa farmers have been crushed by this tariff war with China,” Biden said during his first event. “He thinks that being tough is great. It’s really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain.” 

Iowa, as the first caucus state in the nation, will be critically important for the Democratic primary, where some two dozen candidates are vying for the chance to take on Trump in November. But Iowa will also be in play for the general election. Though Trump won the state in 2016, President Barack Obama carried it in 2008 and 2012. 

Trump repeatedly dropped Biden’s name during his remarks at an official event focused on ethanol and renewable fuels, and at one point threw in a reference to Hillary Clinton for good measure. Noting that Biden keeps mentioning him by name Trump said: “That reminds me of Crooked Hillary – she did the same thing.”

It wasn’t just Trump, but also his allies who hammered away at the Democratic candidate. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale posted a tweet criticizing Biden’s long tenure in politics. Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, criticized the crowd size at Biden’s events. Donald Trump Jr. went after Biden in a series of tweets during the dueling Iowa campaign events. 

Biden said he was “fascinated” by Trump’s focus on him. 

“Folks, it’s got to end, whether it’s me or not,” Biden said of Trump’s presidency during an event. “It’s got to end.” 

More: Trump vs. Biden in Iowa: Septuagenarian rivals try to demonstrate vigor 

More: 4 decades separate 2020’s presidential candidates. Here’s what that looks like.

Biden was heckled shortly after taking the stage at his first event. As the crowd tried to drown out the protester, Biden invited the person to speak with him after his remarks.  

“This is not a Trump rally,” he said. “Let him go.”

Biden is expected to critique Trump later in the day on health care, immigration, foreign policy and basic decency, according to excerpts of his later remarks. 

“Everywhere we turn, it’s clear that Trump is shredding what we believe in most,” Biden will say during the second Iowa trip of his campaign. “I believe we have to restore those basic values.”

Biden is currently an Iowa polling leader, according to a recent Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Twenty-four percent of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucus-goers say the former vice president is their first choice for president. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, is the first choice for 16% of poll respondents, while Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator, and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are at 15% and 14% respectively. No other candidate cracked double digits.

More: Iowa Poll: Biden leads, followed by Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg

Check back for continued coverage of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa.

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  • Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in a packed hall in Ottumwa, Iowa Tuesday, June 11, 2019.1 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in a packed hall in Ottumwa, Iowa Tuesday, June 11, 2019.2 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in a packed hall in Ottumwa, Iowa Tuesday, June 11, 2019.3 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in a packed hall in Ottumwa, Iowa Tuesday, June 11, 2019.4 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in a packed hall in Ottumwa, Iowa Tuesday, June 11, 2019.5 of 25
  • Former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden energized supporters during a campaign stop in Des Moines on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.6 of 25
  • Former Vice President and current democratic presidential candidate hopeful Joe Biden energized supporters during a campaign stop in Des Moines on Wednesday, April 30, 2019.7 of 25
  • Former Vice President and current democratic presidential candidate hopeful Joe Biden poses for a selfie with supporters following his speech during a campaign stop in Des Moines on Wednesday, April 30, 2019.8 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd of people on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Grand River Conference Center in Dubuque. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president. 9 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd of people on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Grand River Conference Center in Dubuque. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president. 10 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd of people on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Grand River Conference Center in Dubuque. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president. 11 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden stopped for ice cream in Monticello, Iowa Tuesday.12 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a selfie after speaking to a crowd of people on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president. 13 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd of people on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president. 14 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd of people on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president. 15 of 25
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with people who came to hear him speak on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. This is Biden's first trip to Iowa after announcing his run for president.16 of 25
  • Former United States Vice President Joe Biden fires up Democratic voters during a rally for gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell and first congressional district candidate Abby Finkenauer during a speech in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.17 of 25
  • Vice President Joe Biden conducts a round table discussion18 of 25
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  • Vice President Joe Biden addresses supporters in Grinnell20 of 25
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  • Vice President Joe Biden addresses supporters on Sept.23 of 25
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