North Dakota Democrats Softening Their Criticism of Trump on Trade?

Mac Schneider, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, says the farm economy is one of the top issues in North Dakota this election. John M. Steiner / The Sun

I think maybe the North Dakota Democrats got some polling feedback or something which indicated that their messaging about Trump and trade – one of the few areas where incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp and U.S. House candidate Mac Schneider have differed with the President – hasn’t been working too well.

Yesterday Senator Heitkamp, after previously deriding Trump’s aid package to farmers, announced legislation which would redistribute revenues from Trump’s trade tariffs to farmers. Now Schneider, too, is striking a different rhetorical tone on Trump’s approach.

This from the Jamestown Sun yesterday:

“I disagree with the use of tariffs to crack down on the Chinese but I certainly agree with the president that China’s rule breaking is a problem,” he said. “… the potential loss of Chinese soybean markets would be incredibly detrimental to production agriculture in North Dakota.”

The aid package for farmers hurt by the tariffs and trade war is something Schneider said he reluctantly, but firmly supports.

“It will keep farmers on the land,” he said.

This contrasts pretty sharply with what Schneider was saying about Trump’s aid package last month the day it was announced. “The North Dakota producers I have spoken with would much rather sell to their customers than be forced to turn to government programs which fall short of compensating them for the actual losses caused by this trade war,” he said then in a Facebook post which also linked to a Politico article describing Trump’s aid package as something from a “Soviet-style economy.”

So, to review, just a few weeks ago both Schneider and Heitkamp were both deriding Trump’s aid package to farmers. Now Schneider says he supports it, while Heitkamp is busy trying to create her own aid program.

That sort of a shift doesn’t just happen. I think the Democrats are finding they aren’t making as much political hay out of the trade issue as they thought they would.

I’m sure headlines like this one aren’t helping: “Trade war: China suffers three-month export downturn as Donald Trump’s tariffs bite”

Or this one: “Trump expected to put Congress on NAFTA alert Friday”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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