Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Manufacturing and trade rhetoric are still a big deal as the presidential field starts to shrink.

Another big day today on the campaign trail: Voters are headed to the polls in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois for their primaries. Will the frontrunners consolidate their leads? Or will the also-rans make gains and stretch out the nomination contests?

Whatever happens, keep this in mind: Trade and manufacturing policy will matter, big time. It has mattered the whole time for Donald Trump, who – when he isn’t fending off charges of fomenting campaign rally riots – has made bashing trade deals a centerpiece of his quest for the presidency. And it mattered a whole lot last week for Bernie Sanders, who came out of nowhere to beat Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary. Exit polls there revealed that it was Sanders’ trade policy skepticism that won over a lot of voters.

It will definitely matter today in Ohio, where voters rate manufacturing and trade policy among their top priorities.

So, a quick refresher before you plunk down in front of the TV to watch the results roll in: Where do the remaining candidates stand on manufacturing?

Trouble on trade for Hillary?

Let’s look to the left first. As mentioned above, Bernie Sanders is talking about trade constantly, and if those Michigan exit polls were any indication, he has done so to great effect. He has been doing his darnedest to tie Hillary Clinton to NAFTA (which her husband championed) and normalized trade with China (which her husband also championed), and questioned her flip-flop on support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

To her credit, though: Clinton has laid out a very detailed policy paper on what she’d do for American manufacturing as president.

Four men enter, one man leave?

On the right, we have a veritable Thunderdome on hand for a few of the candidates. The emerging narrative suggests all of the hopes of Marco Rubio’s campaign ride on him winning his home state of Florida tonight, which looks like a real long shot right now. Rubio, frankly, has got other things on his mind than trade and manufacturing right now. But! he has said that skills training would be a big part of his domestic agenda.

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said if he doesn’t win the Buckeye State today that he’s dropping from the race. A healthy manufacturing economy in Ohio has been a big part of Kasich’s pitch, and he’s vowed to be tough on trade enforcement as president. But he’s gotten a ton of flack for his past support for NAFTA and his present support for the TPP, particularly from Trump.

Which brings us to Donald Trump, who has somehow had the Gary Busey endorsement locked up since September. The song remains the same for Trump: Trade is presently real bad for America, and the Donald will fix it. This candidate talks about trade more often and arguably more passionately than anyone else out there. And while we agree that trade with China has been disastrous for American workers – we’re still waiting on ideas from the Trump camp that are more nuanced than lowering the corporate tax rate and instituting a simple, massive tariff on imported goods.

And don’t forget: Ted Cruz is still out there.

Cruz isn’t big on manufacturing or trade policy, but has begun speaking out on it as the issues have gained prominence as the primary season has slogged on. His big idea for revitalizing our export economy is – you guessed it – passing his tax reform plan.   

By this time tomorrow, we may have a smaller presidential field. Hopefully we can soon turn from rousing rhetoric on manufacturing and trade and some legit policy prescriptions.