Almost every single Democrat running for president is heading to Iowa over the next day or two. While it’s not technically required to attend the Iowa State Fair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a presidential candidate already in the state who doesn’t cross the hallowed fairgrounds threshold after it kicks off today.
And for good reason. This is the largest concentration of Iowans in one place that you can possibly get, and for candidates eager to break out and build connections with a voting base, this is the perfect place to do it. An average of 1.3 million people attend the fair annually.
The fair, in all of its butter cow and bacon-wrapped-bacon glory, is exactly the type of setting for a candidate to make an impact.
Because this 10-day event is retail politics at its absolute finest.
And it’s not all cheese curds and corn dogs for these candidates. Each year, the Des Moines Register gives each candidate a soapbox, a microphone and 20 minutes to address fair attendees. Each candidate treats their spin on the soapbox differently. Some give a full speech, others have back-and-forths with fairgoers, some even get heckled. Either way, it’s a chance to let Iowans get up close and personal with candidates.
It’s also where candidates can leave lasting impressions. It was atop the soapbox that Mitt Romney made his famous comment that corporations are people (my friend) in 2012 – something that dogged him for the rest of the campaign. Barack Obama famously skipped the soapbox in 2007, opting to take his daughters on the bumper cars.
The Point: Today marks the first day of one of the can’t-miss events on the 2019 political calendar. I’m celebrating by researching how much it costs to overnight a Jumbo Plumper Footlong Corn Dog back to DC.