(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump promised to champion Iowa’s farmers at a rally in the early-voting primary state, where his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has been campaigning hard for Republican votes.

“I said you only have to do one thing: buy more land and buy bigger tractors,” Trump, whom polls give a wide lead in the GOP presidential primary race, told the crowd at Ottumwa in the blue-collar southeastern part of the state. “You never did better than under me.” 

He also renewed his attacks on DeSantis over the governor’s stance on biofuels and sought to blame President Joe Biden for a US trade deficit in farm products. The US had an agricultural trade deficit of $3 billion in 2022, the second negative balance in 10 years, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

While he skipped last week’s Republican candidates’ debate in California, Trump deepened his efforts to reach blue-collar workers with a trip to Michigan to visit striking auto workers — a strategy building on voter blocs that paved his way to the White House in 2016. 

Trump’s decision to skip the second GOP presidential primary debate also exemplified his campaign strategy to sidestep lower-polling GOP candidates and focus on a potential rematch with Biden in the general election. A day before Trump’s suburban Detroit visit, Biden appeared on a picket line with striking United Automobile Workers — becoming the first president in modern times to join a picket line.

Trump’s lead over his closest rival has grown to some 40 percentage points. A recent RealClearPolitics polling average put support for the former president at 57.6%, with DeSantis at 13.7%. 

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