Manufacturers in Iowa, which employ about 14 percent of the state's nonfarm workers, well above the national average, have their eye on the Democratic caucuses and how the winner could shape the future of the sector and the state.
President Trump is doing his part to appeal to Republicans in a Monday tweet, citing the benefits his recent trade deals will have on farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.
The push comes after Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the leading Democrats in the state, vowed last week to "immediately" renegotiate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal that groups like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have praised.
"As the only leading presidential candidate to oppose Trump's NAFTA 2.0, I am pledging today that upon being sworn in as president, I will immediately begin renegotiating this disastrous deal to combat climate change, stop the outsourcing of American jobs and end the destructive race to the bottom," Sanders said in a statement shortly after President Trump's USMCA signing ceremony last week.
NAM CEO Jay Timmons' organization has turned a special focus to Iowa after he delivered his annual address to members from Vermeer Corporation in Pella on Jan. 22. He describes NAM as "post-partisan" rather than non-partisan and says its members have reported that finding skilled workers is their greatest challenge for more than two years.
"Iowa will write the first draft of history on caucus night as you play your part in this great experiment of American democracy and kick off the 2020 election," Timmons said. "When manufacturers have the right tools, when our government isn't holding us back, we can do incredible things."
Iowa manufacturers account for nearly 19 percent of the state's output, with the biggest sectors being food, beverage and tobacco products, machinery and chemical products, according to NAM.
That means many voters with a stake in Iowa's manufacturing sector will be making their voices heard in the caucuses. While Iowa almost never predicts who will win the nomination — there's only one modern example of a candidate who didn't finish in Iowa's top three winning the nomination.
Manufacturing hasn't been a headline-making topic for 2020 Democrats, but it's an area where many of them differ. Another candidate who has been doing well in Iowa polls, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, has said he won't raise taxes on small manufacturers. Buttigieg also promises to invest $1 billion a year to double the nation's apprenticeships in a variety of sectors not restricted to manufacturing.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden says he has a plan to "revitalize" American manufacturing, including by quadrupling funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and encouraging manufacturers to go green.