OMAHA (DTN) -- While new coronavirus cases are now higher than ever in the U.S., President Donald Trump on the campaign trail Tuesday maintained the country had turned a corner in the pandemic and the real risk facing the country is what Democratic rival Joe Biden would do to the suburbs.
Trump capped off a day of rallies with an evening event in Omaha -- where temperatures were in the low 30s -- after events in Wisconsin in Michigan. He briefly mentioned some familiar lines on trade and ethanol policy. Trump pointed to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and said companies would not be leaving Nebraska and Iowa anymore, then he turned to China.
"When China targeted our farmers, I delivered $28 billion to our incredible farmers here in Nebraska and Iowa and all across the country. Don't forget to tell the people of Iowa that, please," Trump said to a crowd estimated at about 6,000-plus people. Trump said there were 29,000 people in the crowd.
Trump said he took the money from tariffs to give to farmers, though the money came from the Commodity Credit Corp., which Congress funds annually for USDA. "So I tariffed $28 billion and distributed it to our farmers, nobody else is going to do that. Nobody. Some people say our farmers do better now than they did when they actually had to farm, but we did it."
Trump then transitioned into criticizing the Green New Deal, which the president maintains would require developers to create buildings without windows, and would "wipe out the ethanol industry," pointing to Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in the audience. "It would wipe it out. We worked hard on that industry and now it's in good shape," Trump added, saying the Green New Deal would devastate Nebraska and Iowa. "As president, I will always defend ethanol, OK," Trump said as the crowd cheered, asking "Does Nebraska like ethanol too, by the way? OK. I just needed that little assurance."
Trump came to Omaha as the state's 2nd congressional district, which encompasses the city, is considered a toss-up for both the president and incumbent Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican and member of the House Agriculture Committee. Nebraska is one of just two states that divides congressional districts by who the voters in that single district support -- the other state being Maine.
As the president campaigns, though, the U.S. is facing a higher surge of COVID-19 cases that are now averaging more than 70,000 new positive cases per day over the past week, more than 10,000 cases higher than the July peak of the coronavirus. The country now has more than 8.8 million cases, and the new hot spots in the country are in Midwestern and Plain states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa.
The president told the Omaha crowd that "we're making the final turn" on COVID-19.
"My plan will crush the virus and you will see economic benefits like we've never seen in our country," Trump said. He later added, "We will get rid of this virus. It will be very soon. It's going to happen very quickly."
With polls indicating that the election could be won or lost by suburban women, Trump also continues to ramp up rhetoric against Biden, insisting the former vice president's "extreme agenda includes a radical vision to destroy suburbs." The Trump campaign played a video showing Biden defending an Obama-era fair housing rule supporting low-income housing. "You don't have to take my word for it," Trump said. "Biden's plan will destroy suburbs and the police."
In the aftermath of the rally at Omaha's airport, where temperatures were below freezing Tuesday evening, thousands of people were stranded at the airport for hours as roads were congested and buses were unable to shuttle people back to distant parking lots. At least seven people were reportedly taken to hospitals, according to Omaha Scanner, which monitors emergency traffic.
As the Biden campaign counters Trump, Biden now plans to visit Iowa on Friday as he hits major battleground states in the final days of the race. Trump also indicated he may return to Iowa again as the campaign comes to a close.
Democrats also continue pushing back on some of Trump's talking points. Former Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and other Democrats this week used Trump's recent criticisms of wind energy as the takeoff point for a news conference to charge that Trump is out of touch with Iowa, and that Biden would be better for the state's energy sector.
Trump criticized wind power last week during the presidential debate when he was asked about climate change. Trump told Biden "I know more about wind than you do. It's extremely expensive. Kills all the birds. It's very intermittent. Got a lot of problems."
In an online news conference, Vilsack said Trump "does not understand the importance of wind energy."
Vilsack noted wind power has invested more than $19 billion in construction and energy infrastructure across Iowa and added more than 9,000 jobs. Vilsack pointed to the revenue paid to farmers annually as well.
"Nearly $70 million is spent annually on rental payments to landowners and farmers across rural Iowa by wind companies to lease the land for turbines," Vilsack said.
Iowa farmer Pam Johnson, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, added that she is supporting Biden because Trump has hurt the renewable fuels industry, conducted a trade war with China, and mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked whether electric vehicle legislation would hurt biofuels, Vilsack pointed out there are currently more than 200 million vehicles in the U.S., the vast majority of which run on liquid fuel. "So regardless of what legislation gets passed, at the end of the day, we are going to have so many cars that we are going to need biofuels for quite some time," Vilsack said.
Democrats also pointed out that the transition of vehicles in the future to higher mileage standard will increase the demand for ethanol by requiring higher octane mixes in liquid fuels.
"And that' a really good point," Vilsack added. "Because if we're really serious about mileage standards and getting more miles out of our cars, that's going to require higher octane and only way you can get higher octane is through biofuels."
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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