A Full Field Takes a Bipartisan Trip to the Fair

NYT FDTrip Gabriel 8/13/2015


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Good Thursday morning, as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas continues his Southern bus tour, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont catches Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Hampshire, and soapbox stump speeches and the smells of fried foods and natural fertilizers await the candidates in Iowa.

Charlie Szold, the communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, sent an email on Wednesday, saying that “97 percent of Iowa corn has reached the ‘silking stage.’ ” And that can mean only one thing: It’s State Fair time.

The 11-day Iowa State Fair beginning on Thursday in Des Moines is Iowa’s biggest event of the year. Its one million visitors come to ogle a life-size cow sculpted from butter, visit the livestock barns, and snack on fried Oreos and pork chops on a stick.

But the fair is also a political cornucopia. Nearly every candidate from both parties is planning a visit, braving the scorching weather to coax a few more voters in the first-in-the-nation nominating state. Most candidates will speak for 20 minutes on the Soapbox, a stage that has hay bale seating and is sponsored by The Des Moines Register. It is a rare occasion to address a bipartisan crowd and has elicited memorable moments over the years. It was here that Mitt Romney told a heckler in 2011 that “corporations are people, my friend,” a line that followed him through the general election.

Mike Huckabee is first on the schedule on Thursday morning, followed by the Democrats Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator, and Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor.

Jeb Bush will appear on Friday, with most of the rest of the candidates appearing over the weekend and into next week.

Mrs. Clinton is visiting the fair on Saturday, but will not speak publicly on the Soapbox. Donald J. Trump, whose offer of children’s rides in his helicopter was nixed by fair officials, was said to be heading to the fair on Saturday as well, though at the time of publication, the details were sketchy. His campaign told The Des Moines Register that Mr. Trump would not, as earlier reported, be introducing Def Leppard on the Grandstand stage.

(Footnote: Where would creaking metal bands be without state fairs?)