(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: And we don't need a President that is treating our rural areas and our farmers like they're a bunch of poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.
With piles of American soy left to rot, and Chinese buyers scared off by rising tariffs, Democratic rivals are seizing on mounting Farm Belt frustration with President Donald Trump's trade war.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) MAYOR PETE BUTTEGIEG: "We're gonna protect farmers and workers." (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS: "Let's talk about the farmers right here in this great state of Iowa." It's a bid to take back part of rural America, which helped put Trump into the White House in 2016.
The sparsely populated U.S. heartland has remained loyal to the Republican president even as farmers from Iowa to Wisconsin to Pennsylvania bear the brunt of his tariff war with China.
His advisers insist Trump's projection of toughness against China will only delight, not alienate, his base.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) FARMER DAVE KESTLE: "He seems harsh right now but he's a businessman and he's trying to make this fair trade." But Democratic presidential candidates are highlighting the economic damage caused by Trump's trade war and biofuel waivers as the central plank of their pitches to rural America.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) JOE BIDEN: "A trade war that only hurts working people and farmers." SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: "I've talked to Iowa farmers who have worked hard to develop markets overseas, only to see Trump's tariffs destroy access to those markets and a real fear those markets are not coming back." Despite the tariff backlash, 2020 is still expected to be an uphill battle for Democrats in this region.
Officials worry the party's increasingly liberal direction on immigration and other Trump-driven hot-button issues is socially and culturally at odds with rural voters.
According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted this month, five in 10 U.S. adults in rural areas approved of Trump's performance in office, higher than his 41% approval nationwide.