CEDAR RAPIDS — Vice President Mike Pence will visit Cedar Rapids Wednesday to tour Rockwell Collins, the region’s largest employer that has facilities across Eastern Iowa.
U.S. Rep. Rod Blum said Monday that Pence will join him to visit Rockwell, which Blum described as “a leader in aviation and high-integrity solutions for commercial and military customers around the world,” and meet with leadership employees.
The aviation company has about 8,000 employees in Cedar Rapids and approximately 1,350 more in Coralville, Manchester, Decorah and other Eastern Iowa communities. It has some 30,000 workers worldwide.
Pence last visited Cedar Rapids in August 2016 when he campaigned at Modern Companies. A former radio talk show host, Pence made numerous trips to Iowa over the years as an Indiana member of Congress and governor.
He was the keynote speaker at Sen. Joni Ernst’s annual Roast and Ride in 2017.
Although not a campaign event, Blum’s Democratic challenger called it another example of Blum continuing to “put politics over Iowans and we literally can no longer afford his lack of leadership.”
Blum, 63, a two-term Republican seeking re-election in Iowa’s 1st District, is being challenged by Democratic State Rep. Abby Finkenauer, 28, also from Dubuque. Blum has been rated as one of the most vulnerable House Republicans this year.
In 2016, Blum was the top vote-getter in the 1st District — outpolling both longtime GOP U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Donald Trump, who won the district that Barack Obama carried twice. Despite that, the Blum-Finkenauer race has been ranked a tossup.
Finkenauer, who has been endorsed by several labor unions, called on Blum to use the vice president’s visit to lobby against a trade war with China and other nations to which Iowa exports agricultural products.
“Unless Rod Blum is hosting a meeting between the vice president and our soybean and corn farmers and pork producers where they can personally tell the administration how their trade war is devastating to Iowa families, then he’s not doing his job,” Finkenauer said.
The Pence visit comes as concern about Iowa agricultural exports is increasing. Since the president announced tariffs on goods from China, soybean prices have dropped as much as $2 a bushel.
Beans account for about $15 billion of the nearly $25 billion in ag exports to China and Taiwan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Blum is nervous about the impact of tariffs, but said he is “cautiously optimistic” Trump will negotiate a better trade agreement.
For Blum, the good news is that Pence’s visit comes at a time when an Emerson College epoll conducted last week found President Donald Trump’s job approval rating at 43 percent and his disapproval at 50 percent, which is an improvement from earlier in the year.
However, his approval ranking is lowest in the Midwest, at 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval.
The poll also found Democrats leading on the generic congressional ballot 49 percent to 42 percent. In the Midwest, however, Democrats have an 18 point lead.
The 20-county 1st District which includes Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown.
United Technologies Corp. announced last September that it plans to acquire Rockwell for $30 billion, including debt. That deal is expected to close this year.