DENISON, Iowa (AP) — GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker renewed his call Wednesday for President Barack Obama to cancel an official state visit with the president of China, saying the move would not hurt trade with states like Iowa, where he was spending the day campaigning, or Wisconsin where he is governor.
Walker first called for the state visit to be canceled Monday, when U.S. stocks tumbled, a reaction, in part, to China's slumping economy. Walker defended the call on Wednesday when asked about possible negative repercussions for agricultural states like Iowa and Wisconsin that do billions of dollars of trade with Beijing.
Walker said Obama shouldn't be offering a state visit to the leader of a country behind cyber attacks in the United States.
"If anything, we should be taking them to the woodshed," Walker said.
He added at a campaign stop in Onawa, Iowa, that Americans are more concerned with fighting cyber attacks than working with China to combat climate change.
"I'm not intimidated to talk about China," Walker said.
The tough words come as Walker is trying to show more spark to energize his presidential campaign. They also come after Walker had previously praised Chinese President Xi Jinping following a trade mission Walker led to China in 2013 designed to increase Wisconsin exports to the country.
Walker said at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in March that he was honored to have met with the Chinese leader along with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, noting that they were two of the first American elected officials to have such a meeting.
"In one reckless statement on China, Scott Walker demonstrated he doesn't understand Iowa's agriculture industry, trade policy or foreign policy," said Iowa state Rep. Bruce Bearinger, a Democrat from Oelwein, Iowa. He was referring to Walker's call to cancel the official visit.
China is Wisconsin's third-largest export market, purchasing $1.5 billion worth of goods in 2014, according to Walker's administration. It was Iowa's fourth-largest market last year at $946 million.
Walker's comments came at the beginning of a two-day tour of southwest Iowa.
The low-key stops at diners, pizza points and coffee shops are a stark contrast to the rally his GOP rival Donald Trump held Tuesday night in Dubuque that attracted 4,000 people. Walker spoke to about 50 people at Cronk's Cafe in Denison, his first stop on the tour through Iowa's back roads that comes as his presidential campaign has hit a rough patch and Trump has gained more momentum and support.
Walker talked with just a few diners at stops in Onawa, Iowa, and Missouri Valley, Iowa.
Walker was on the defensive much of last week, explaining his shifting comments on whether he supported ending birthright citizenship and his statement that there are only a "handful" of moderate followers of Islam.
Walker, wearing faded blue jeans, Harley-Davidson boots and a short-sleeved blue and white checked shirt, steered clear of those hot-button issues and avoided any missteps as he greeted the lunchtime crowd in Denison.
"As great of a field there is, and there are 17 really outstanding candidates ... what makes me unique is if you want someone who has fought and won and actually gotten results and done it without compromising common-sense conservative principles, I'm the only one in the race who can say they've done that," Walker said.
With such a large field of Republican candidates, several of those who came to see Walker said it's too early to commit to him or anyone else.
"I'd say he's pretty much right where I thought before I came in," said Gail Friend, 71, of Battle Creek, Iowa. Friend said he thinks Walker is in the middle of the Republican pack.
Leonard Walde, 85, of West Side, Iowa, said he liked both Ben Carson and Walker.
"If he can get done what he's talking about, I'm all for it," Walde said of Walker.
After his southwest Iowa tour ends Thursday morning, Walker will have hit 25 of the state's 99 counties on his pledge to visit all of them before the caucuses on Feb. 1, his campaign said.
On Friday, Walker was to outline his foreign policy positions at a speech at The Citadel in South Carolina. Walker last week released his health care plan in Minneapolis. He has promised to detail other policy initiatives in the coming weeks.
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