Dave Loebsack

Congressman Dave Loebsack takes a turn at the pork grill.

DES MOINES — As usual, Dave Loebsack avoided the limelight.

Loebsack, a longtime Democratic Congressman from Iowa who recently announced he would not run for re-election in 2020, came to the Iowa State Fairgrounds this year. He did not attract y the crowds of the many Democratic presidential candidates who made their way here.

And that is the way Loebsack likes it.

“I’m looking forward to the next 16 months,” he said when asked about the end of his congressional career. He checked off a series of issues where he hopes to make a difference during that time, including rural broadband. And he said gun control deserves to be discussed in Congress.

“I think there’s a bit of movement on more expansive background checks,” he said.

He also said China has been a bad actor on trade issues, but that President Donald Trump has taken a poor approach to trade, alienating allies and trying to bully China.

“He went straight to 11 (on trade),” Loebsack said of Trump. “I never thought that the Chinese would be bullied by doing that.”

And on the issue of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), he said Republican and Democratic leaders are working to get to ratification at the moment, adding he expects a deal to be made that will allow passage.

As for all the presidential candidates, Loebsack said he is not endorsing anyone at the moment, but that he would support whomever the party nominates to run against Trump, who he thinks could be vulnerable in Iowa, thanks in part to his trade wars and in part to his overall divisiveness and behavior.

He also said Trump has not been all that supportive of farmers on issues such as the Renewable Fuels Standard, citing the many small refinery waivers the president’s administration has allowed.

Trump, he said, is “exponentially worse that anybody anticipated.”

But he said the Democratic candidates need to get out in the country and talk to Iowans. More important, they need to listen. With the number of candidates in the field, it may not take more than 30% to win the caucuses, he said.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.