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Trump's response to the coronavirus disaster causes trouble for his campaign

Michael Finnegan and Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

TOLEDO, Iowa -- The danger of the coronavirus pandemic has become very real for LeAnn Davis. A major outbreak at a National Beef plant near this Iowa town of 2,100 has left one of her friends hospitalized.

Davis is put off by President Trump's refusal to wear a face mask and alarmed by his rush to reopen the economy.

"It's too soon," she said. "It's way too soon."

Trump has begun pouring money into television advertising in Iowa, a state that he easily carried in 2016, and voters like Davis are a big part of the reason. The 50-year-old Democrat voted twice for Barack Obama, then skipped the 2016 election because she didn't like Trump and didn't trust Hillary Clinton. But this time, she's voting for Joe Biden.

If enough voters like her -- dissatisfied with Trump's leadership in a health and economic catastrophe -- turn out for Biden, the president's dominance in Iowa is in jeopardy.

Trump's campaign has spent more than $400,000 to run television ads in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City in recent weeks, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

 

The spots frame the 73-year-old president's response to the coronavirus as tough, quick and "not always polite" and portray the 77-year-old Biden as an addled old man with a history of coddling China.

As a mainly white farm state, Iowa should be safe territory for Trump, whose political base includes rural America. He beat Clinton by more than 9 percentage points here. But with the coronavirus upending life for Iowa's 3.2 million residents, the state no longer looks like a sure bet.

"If you're advertising in the state, it's competitive -- period," said Ken Goldstein, a politics professor at the University of San Francisco.

The Trump campaign is also spending more than $600,000 on TV commercials that started airing Thursday in Ohio. Like Iowa, it's a state the president won handily in 2016; he beat Clinton by 8 percentage points. It's highly unlikely Trump can win the Electoral College without victories in both states.

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