Tariff fight could hit GOP in key Senate states

From The Hill:

Democrats see President Trump’s escalating trade war with China as an opportunity that could help them win several Senate races in states where a trade fight would damage local economies.

States that rely on agriculture could be hit particularly hard by retaliatory tariffs from China. That could give Democrats in states like North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Missouri and Florida — all of [which] are represented by Senate Democrats up for reelection this year — a new argument to make against the president and his allies in Congress.

The administration launched the first wave of tariffs last month on steel and aluminum, but tensions rose this week when the White House announced $50 billion in tariffs on a variety of Chinese electronics and other goods.

China responded with a broad list of U.S. goods that would face $50 billion in tariffs as well — a response that prompted a White House threat to add $100 billion in new tariffs to Chinese goods.

The Chinese tariffs target a smattering of U.S. goods, including soybeans, cotton, corn, pork, chemicals, plastics, cattle, wheat and tobacco.

China is one of the biggest markets for American export goods, and a top recipient of American agricultural products like soybeans, corn, grains and pork, according to the United States Trade Representative.

Soybeans and hogs are major cash crops in states like Minnesota, Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri. Corn is a major crop in Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana. And Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Montana, Minnesota and Florida all feature large cattle industries.

All of those states will see Senate races in 2018, with several Democratic incumbents on the ballot in states Trump won in 2016. Republicans are warning that the economic impact of tariffs could be felt hardest in key Senate states if the trade war continues.

“The economic pain that people will feel from tariffs will be a good reminder of how important free trade is to the economy,” said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist who’s served as a top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“The people most at risk are the people in disproportionately red states who voted for Trump,” he said, adding that the “coincidence of the cycle” is that those states are also home to Democratic incumbents targeted by the GOP.

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