Iowa Republicans Struggle To Reconcile Support For Trump And TPP

Aug 19, 2016

There’s one issue both major presidential candidates seem to be in agreement on. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say they’re opposed to President Obama’s multinational trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the swing state of Iowa, many agricultural groups are in favor of the TPP for new markets it will open for exports like Iowa pork.

On this day, swine veterinarian Howard Hill is one of the fairgoers strolling down the Iowa State Fair concourse in Des Moines. Hill is former president of the politically powerful National Pork Producers Council.  He says the Trans Pacific Partnership is probably the biggest commercial opportunity ever for Iowa’s pork producers. Nearly-one third of the nation’s hogs are raised here - many for export to Asia.

Hill says Donald Trump wasn’t his first choice for president but he’ll be voting for the nominee this fall. The two even met.

“He said that he doesn’t use the term free trade cause he says there’s no such thing as free trade. He wants fair trade,” Hill says. “I think that he would try to negotiate some of the things that he sees are not favorable to the U.S.”

Hill’s hopeful Congress will eventually approve the TPP. He’s able to catch his congressman, Republican Steve King, after he finishes up a political speech on the Des Moines Register Soapbox before fairgoers.

King isn’t optimistic.

“It’s been demonized like no other trade deals,” Congressman King says. “We had objective discussions about other trade deals. This one’s been demonized.”

One of the politicians demonizing the TPP is Donald Trump.

“Trans-Pacific… we’re gonna reject. Gotta reject,” Trump said back in July during a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids. “It will be as bad as NAFTA, maybe worse and it’ll be very bad for Iowa.”

Still, Congressman King and all of Iowa’s top Republicans have fully thrown their support behind him. Governor Terry Branstad even just signed on to Trump’s agriculture advisory team.

Iowa Republicans are in a difficult spot…they weren’t likely to support Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton anyway. And she’s no fan of the trade deal either.

Back at the State Fair, Iowa’s Freshman U-S Senator Joni Ernst is politicking at the pork tent while topping off fairgoers’ water glasses.

Ernst spoke at her party’s convention last month while many Republicans didn’t even show up.

If Trump is elected, Ernst says she’ll try to make the case for this trade deal.

“I would like to sit down with him,” Sen. Ernst says. “And really explain how this is beneficial not only to Iowans but to the citizens of the United States.”

Leaving many Republicans in a tough position: support the party’s nominee in hopes that he’ll change his mind on a signature issue once he’s in office.

Trump will be back in Iowa later this month to headline Senator Ernst’s Roast and Ride fundraiser which features a pork roast.