Iowa Rejects Biden, But President Comes Back To Sell Rural Plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Iowa has never been fertile ground for Joe Biden.

His 1988 presidential bid was embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, sparked by comments he made at a debate there. He left the White House race in 2008 after finishing fifth in the Iowa caucuses. And his 2020 campaign finished fourth in the state’s technically poor caucus.

After bouncing back to win the Democratic nomination, Biden returned for a rally at the Iowa State Fair Grounds four days before Election Day 2020, only to see Donald Trump win the state by 8 percentage points.

Biden returned to Iowa on Tuesday for the first time as president, at a time when he faces even more political crisis. He is saddled with approval ratings and inflation at a 40-year high, while his party faces the prospect of big mid-term election losses, taking control of the Congress.

The president is set to boost his economic plans to help rural households grappling with high costs at gas pumps and elsewhere, while a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law was highlighted last fall. This includes funding to improve Internet access, as well as funds to modernize wastewater systems, reduce flood hazards, and improve roads and bridges, drinking water and the electric grid in sparsely populated areas.

Supporters of an emergency exemption allowing year-round sales of gasoline blended with 15% ethanol hope Biden will use his travels to announce the move, which they say will help ease rising gas prices. will help.

Biden will visit a biofuel company in Menlo, a farming community west of Iowa’s capital, Des Moines. It is in Guthrie County, which gave Trump an endorsement of 35 percentage points over Biden in 2020.

“Part of this is visible in communities of all sizes, regardless of the results of the last election,” said Jesse Harris, senior adviser to Biden’s 2020 campaign in Iowa. Efforts for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.

Harris said that most presidents visiting Iowa usually visit the state’s largest cities. Hitting an area like Menlo “speaks to the importance of governance on infrastructure broader, but also infrastructure in rural and small communities.”

The Biden administration is planning to spend billions in funding for rural areas in the coming weeks. Cabinet members and other senior officials will travel the country to help communities gain access to funds available as part of the infrastructure package.

“The president is not approaching this visit through a political lens,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “He’s making this trip because Iowa is a rural state in the country that would benefit greatly from the president’s policies.”

Iowa State University political science professor Stephen Schmidt said part of Biden’s trouble is that the key social issues that are driving the national democratic agenda – including gay rights and combating institutional racism – are liberal in the heartland. Voters can be turned off.

“Iowa is a traditional, rural state, and even Democrats are roaders in the middle,” he said.

To win over voters who are more focused on pocketbook issues, administration officials have long suggested that Biden travel more to boost an economy that is recovering from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the number of Americans collecting unemployment has fallen to the lowest level since 1970.

But much of the news of positive jobs nationally has been fueled by rising gas, food and housing prices, which pushed consumer inflation to 7.9% in the year ending February. This is the sharpest spike since 1982. Inflation figures for March, due out on Tuesday, are likely to bring more bad news for the Biden administration.

“Maybe a trip to Iowa will be what Joe Biden needs to understand what his reckless spending, big government policies are doing to our country,” Iowa Republican Party President Jeff Kaufman said in a statement.

After Iowa, Biden will visit Greensboro, North Carolina, on Thursday.

Saki blamed Russia’s war in Ukraine for helping push gas prices up, and said the administration expects the consumer price index for March to be “extremely high” because of it.

Members of Congress from both parties have urged Biden to issue an ethanol exemption.

“Domestic Iowa biofuels provide a quick and clean solution to reduce prices at the pump and boost production will help us become energy independent once again,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. He and eight Republican and seven Democratic senators from Midwestern states sent a letter to Biden last month urging him to allow E15 sales throughout the year.

Most gasoline sold in the US is blended with 10% ethanol. Corn-rich Iowa farmers have pushed for widespread sales of the 15% ethanol blend. That product is banned in summers as it adds to the haze in high temperatures.

The Environmental Protection Agency has lifted seasonal restrictions on E15 in the past, including after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The Trump administration allowed the E15 to be sold in the summer months two years later, but a federal appeals court overruled the rule.

The price of ethanol peaked in December but has been falling recently. Bulk ethanol has traded around $1.20 a gallon cheaper than gasoline, although not all of the savings are passed on to drivers.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

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