Biden heads to Iowa to confront Democrats' rural woes: The Note

The White House says he doesn’t see the visit through a "political prism."

April 12, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President Joe Biden makes his first trip to Iowa as president on Tuesday. But Iowa politics found a way of finding him and the Democratic Party before he touches down.

Sunday brought a judge's ruling -- subject to appeal -- that the front-running Democrat for Senate in Iowa, former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, failed to qualify for the primary ballot. It's an inauspicious development during a week the White House hopes to use to showcase its "rural playbook" by fanning out across the country.

PHOTO: Abby Finkenauer stands for a portrait on her parent's property in Dubuque, Iowa, June 4, 2018.
Abby Finkenauer stands for a portrait on her parent's property in Dubuque, Iowa, June 4, 2018.
The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

In Washington, meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is expected to move ahead this week with a plan that could effectively kill Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses in time for 2024. In case you need another Hawkeye State headline, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the state's former governor, won't be with Biden in Menlo, Iowa, on Tuesday when the president visits an ethanol plant, after Vilsack tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Biden famously finished fourth in what he called a "gut punch" amid the debacle that was the Iowa caucuses in 2020 and lost the state to former President Donald Trump by eight points that fall. But the Obama-Biden ticket won the state in the general election twice, by north of nine points in 2008 and more than five points in 2012.

Such victories are distant memories for Democrats who are now struggling to figure out how their brand soured in huge swaths of rural America. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president sees the trip as an example of how he governs on behalf of "all people, whether you voted for him or not," and that he doesn't see Tuesday's visit through a "political prism."

In Iowa, on this day in particular, that's not entirely his framing to dictate.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

President Biden, in Rose Garden remarks Monday, continued his denunciation of reallocating funds away from law enforcement agencies, or "defunding the police."

"The answer is not to defund the police, it's to fund the police and give them the tools and training to support the need to be better partners and protectors of our communities in need," Biden said to applause.

The comment came during a speech highlighting steps the administration is taking to tackle the proliferation of "ghost guns," easy to acquire kits that allow someone to put together an often untraceable firearm. Biden called for law enforcement agencies to hire more police and invest in community policing and violence interrupters -- community leaders who can help prevent crimes from happening in the first place.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden holds up a ghost gun kit during an event about gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, April 11, 2022.
President Joe Biden holds up a ghost gun kit during an event about gun violence in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, April 11, 2022.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Approval of Biden's handling of crime remains at a dismal 38%, according to the latest ABC News/Ipsos Poll.

Police reform efforts that died in the Senate haven't been revived and efforts from the White House to address the issue haven't yielded the transformative results Biden promised on the campaign trail. During the White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the status of an executive order on police reform. She pointed the finger at Congress for inaction on both gun and police reform.

"In order to make reforms impactful over the long term and more expansive, we need legislation," said Psaki.

The fact remains that Biden made lofty promises to address both, but the likelihood of this 50-50 Senate passing what would be landmark legislation on either issue is slim. Chances could get even slimmer after a midterm election cycle not expected to bode well for the president's party, with Democrats bracing for what could be a loss of control of one or both chambers of Congress.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

As the stakes of former President Donald Trump's political endorsements come under sharper scrutiny, the prospects of at least one of his favored candidates -- North Carolina Senate contender Ted Budd -- appear to be on the rise despite being tied up in one of the nation's messiest primaries.

In addition to Trump's backing, Budd is also seeing an outpouring of support from the Club for Growth, a conservative super PAC, which launched multimillion-dollar ad buys that tout Budd as an ally of the former president and his policies. The ads also cast Budd's main primary opponent, former governor Pat McCrory, as a "lying liberal" who exercises "dirty tricks."

PHOTO: Ted Budd addresses the crowd at a rally in Selmam N.C., April 9, 2022.
Ted Budd addresses the crowd at a rally in Selmam N.C., April 9, 2022.
Chris Seward/AP

McCrory is also playing in the ad wars -- in a new ad released on Monday, the former governor is posing next to a wheelbarrow full of manure with Budd's image hovering above the pile, surrounded by flies.

"There's a lot of crap in politics, just like Congressman Budd's false campaign," McCrory said in defense of his branding as a conservative, before referencing his gubernatorial enactment of a law that banned so-called "sanctuary city" policies in North Carolina.

McCrory is also associated with another controversial policy nicknamed the "bathroom bill,"which restricted which public restrooms transgender people could use. The policy drew mass protests and rebukes from high-profile businesses and organizations, and the backlash contributed to McCrory's gubernatorial reelection loss.

More recently, his role in the issue was resurfaced by Trump, who mocked McCrory as "the bathroom governor" at a recent North Carolina rally.


Former Trump lawyer John Eastman -- a right-wing attorney who is emerging as a top target of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack -- was part of a small group of Trump allies who went to Wisconsin last month in an attempt to convince the Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Assembly to decertify President Joe Biden's win, multiple sources familiar with the meeting told ABC News. The private meeting was just one instance of an ongoing effort by Eastman, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell and other Trump allies who have continually pushed to overturn the election despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Trump has been paying close attention to the effort and has been in contact with individuals in Wisconsin who are pushing to decertify the election, sources told ABC.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

23. That's the number of states, including Washington, D.C., where it's currently possible for women to obtain an early abortion without ever setting foot in a clinic. In these areas of the country, women can use prescription drugs to end unwanted pregnancies. Abortion pills are an important option for women, but as FiveThirtyEight's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Maggie Koerth write, it's possible that access is now about to be severely restricted as anti-abortion lawmakers try to crack down on the mail distribution of abortion pills in several states.


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  • President Joe Biden receives his daily brief at 10 a.m. Then, the president heads to Des Moines, Iowa, where he visits a bioethanol plant where he'll make an announcement at 2:45 p.m. about lowering costs for American families.
  • Press secretary Jen Psaki will gaggle aboard Air Force One while en route to Iowa at 11:45 a.m.
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