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Battle for Iowa heats up over rural issues

Iowa, a competitive purple state which has leaned blue, voted for President Trump in 2016 by a big margin. This election, the Biden campaign has managed to narrow that lead, making the state a toss-up. Iowa PBS Senior Producer and Director Andrew Batt joins Hari Sreenivasan from Des Moines to discuss the race in the state as part of our ongoing series, “Roads to Election 2020.”

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    We continue our special "Roads to Election 2020" coverage now with more from Iowa PBS Senior Producer and Director Andrew Battt who joined us from Des Moines.

  • Andrew Batt:

    Really, when you think about Iowa, we've been in this presidential campaign for well over 18 months now. We had a competitive primary season here in Iowa and it's rolled right into some races that were not originally thought to be competitive, but have been and are.

    Iowa has kind of slipped back into a toss-up state by some prognosticators right now at the presidential level. But it's the battle for the U.S. Senate where you see a lot of interest and money being spent on the airwaves here. We also have three very competitive races for Congress.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What are the issues that are driving it right now? Is it about COVID? Is it about the direct show and the sort of environmental disaster that farmers have survived? Is it about recovering from the losses that COVID also brought to farmers?

  • Andrew Batt:

    The short answer is yes, all of those things play out.

    Some of them are are a bigger focus in maybe a specific congressional district, but none, none of these issues escapes COVID right now. I mean, it's impacting the lives of anywhere there's where there's kids that want to go to school or, or the adults that want to get back to the regular daily lives.

    You know, I was often framed and what are the issues that impact the rural parts of the state, what would impacts agriculture? And those are our big issues and have been for many years now in the Trump administration. The real focus in the last few weeks has been issues pertaining to ethanol. And just in the last couple days here, President Trump traveled to the neighboring state of Wisconsin to promise more money, more money for an agriculture and farm sector that has been sent a lot of money in recent years.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I mean, what is it that ultimately is going to make Iowa a toss-up state when it comes to the presidential race?

  • Andrew Batt:

    I think if you look back at where Iowa has been in more recent memory before 2016, it was a it was a competitive state that, that was purple, but leaned blue at the presidential level for many years and was competitive.

    And what Donald Trump did here is he won this state by a larger percentage-point gap in 2016 than he won the state of Texas. And what Joe Biden on the ticket has done, as opposed to Hillary Clinton is he has immediately narrowed that gap. But that battle over rural issues that the Trump administration and their campaign is clearly making, the decision that coming in and saying that we are supporting you with money, with, with dollars from the federal government is going to bolster the support.

    And that can either be read, as they think that they had, may have some issues out here in rural America, maybe some fading support, or they just really want to bring their numbers up in rural parts of the state.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Andrew Batt from Iowa PBS, thanks so much.

  • Andrew Batt:

    Thank you.

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