BY NICK GERANIOS, STEVE PEOPLES AND STEVE KARNOWSKI
April 05, 2018 09:48 PM
Gary Bailey is certain China is trying to rattle Donald Trump voters with its threat to slap tariffs on soybeans and other agriculture staples grown in rural America. The wheat farmer in eastern Washington, a state that exports $4 billion a year in farm products, is also certain of the result.
“It’s a strategy that’s working,” he said.
If farmers are worried, so are Republican politicians, who depended on small-town America to hand them control of Congress and know how quickly those voters could take it away. Just seven months before the 2018 midterm elections, Trump’s faceoff with China over trade has exposed an unexpected political vulnerability in what was supposed to be the Republican Party’s strongest region: rural America.
The clash with China poses a direct threat to the economies in both red and blue states, from California’s central valley to eastern Washington through Minnesota’s plains and across Missouri and Indiana and into Ohio.
They are regions in which the GOP’s quest to retain its House and Senate majorities this fall is tied directly to Republican voters’ views about their pocketbooks and Trump’s job performance. The signs of fear and frustration about both are easy to find.
In southwestern Minnesota, soybean farmer Bill Gordon says the volatility in the markets makes it harder for farmers like him to market their crop and lock in profitability. The state is the country’s fourth-largest exporting state, and the state’s top farm export market is China.