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How Trump's Tariffs And Trade Policies Are Affecting Midterm Campaigns


All right, we've just heard how President Trumps tariffs are affecting one farmer in the Midwest. Now we're going to hear how tariffs and trade are affecting key Senate races there. Ten Democrats are running in states that President Trump won in 2016, and we're going to take the next few minutes to check in on the races in Missouri and Wisconsin where the Democratic candidates are running in very different directions on trade. Reporter Jason Rosenbaum of St. Louis Public Radio starts things off.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: To win a third term, senator Claire McCaskill will have to string together a coalition of urban, suburban and rural voters. But rural counties have taken a sharp Republican turn in the last decade. McCaskill believes she has a potent issue - President Trump's tariffs. She predicts the tariffs will be brutal for Missouri agriculture.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: For every trade war that starts, it's not just the first salvo. It's the reaction.

ROSENBAUM: Countries like China and Canada have already retaliated. Canada has slapped tariffs on frozen meat from Missouri.

MCCASKILL: So the president's declared a trade war against Canada, which is our most reliable and important trading partner for agriculture.

ROSENBAUM: It's not just McCaskill who is up in arms. Her GOP colleague Missouri Senator Roy Blunt also criticized Trump's tariffs. And it's not a mystery why. Agriculture is one of Missouri's top industries. Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst says soybean farmers in particular are bearing the brunt of the trade war.

BLAKE HURST: I mean, we're not profitable. At these levels, we're losing money. And so at some point, it becomes difficult to pay your loan back and difficult to make payments on your farm. It's hard to support your family.

ROSENBAUM: Still, many of the state's rural politicians and agricultural groups aren't backing McCaskill. For example, the Missouri Cattlemen's Association and the Missouri Pork Association have endorsed state Attorney General Josh Hawley's U.S. Senate bid. Hawley has the endorsement of Trump and vice president Mike Pence. When asked about his opinion of the tariffs, Hawley says he supports what Trump is trying to do.

JOSH HAWLEY: The Chinese in particular have systematically attempted to rig the international trade system to build their middle class on the backs of ours. That is just a fact. And this president said he's not going to let it happen. And I'm glad he's out there trying to do something about it. Let's see what deal he's able to get.

ROSENBAUM: Opinion polls show that Trump's standing in Missouri is higher than the national average. But McCaskill clearly thinks that opposing the tariffs will help her withstand a tough re-election bid. For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis.

LAUREL WHITE, BYLINE: And I'm Laurel White in Madison, Wis., where Senator Tammy Baldwin is running for re-election. It could be a tough race. Baldwin is one of only two Democrats holding statewide office in a purple state that's getting redder every year. Getting support from Republicans and independents who voted for President Trump will be crucial. So even though she's a liberal Democrat, Baldwin is highlighting her common ground with the president on trade. Here she is in Eau Claire, Wis., earlier this month.


TAMMY BALDWIN: When President Trump visited Wisconsin last year, he told us that he backed my buy American water infrastructure plan 100 percent. Now, that's bipartisanship.

WHITE: Baldwin says more Republicans need to think like President Trump when it comes to buy America policies. She even recorded a campaign video last month asking the president to lobby fellow Republicans on her bill.


BALDWIN: Please make sure that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan know that you support this important legislation that puts America first. Maybe just send them a tweet.

WHITE: Baldwin recorded that video in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., a part of the state President Trump won in 2016. While Baldwin has criticized the tariffs against American allies, she said that tariffs do send a strong message to what she calls bad actors like China.


BALDWIN: Tariffs can be useful when they're used in a smart way, a targeted way. And we know that China cheats.

WHITE: The two Republicans running to face Baldwin in November are running close to the president on trade. But other Wisconsin Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker, oppose the tariffs. They point to the effects for companies like Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson which says it's moving some jobs overseas in response to the tariffs. Dairy and soybean farmers also say they're feeling the pinch.

Baldwin has called on the president to do something to support those businesses but sticks by her statement that the U.S. has to be tough on China. She's walking a fine line trying to show voters she can find common ground with the president and hoping it's enough to keep her in office for another six years. For NPR News, I'm Laurel White in Madison. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laurel White
Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.
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