Democrats Gather for Chicken Wings in Shadow of Iowa State Fair

NYT FDAmy Chozick 8/14/2015

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Good Friday morning, as the United States reopens its embassy in Cuba and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida travels to New York to condemn the move. But most of the campaigns are in Iowa, where the State Fair offers soapboxes to speak from, and where the Democrats will gather to chow down as they press the flesh.

Not since the Iowa steak fry last fall has Hillary Rodham Clinton faced such an important testing ground for retail politics and her affinity for fried food. On Friday, she will join her Democratic opponents, including Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, to speak at the annual Wing Ding Dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa, an event that includes raising money for Democrats and raising cholesterol levels with chicken wings.

The event is just the start of Mrs. Clinton’s high-calorie swing through the state. On Saturday, she will join a dozen other presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, where the menu includes apple pie on a stick, deep fried nacho balls and pumpkin spice funnel cake.

It’s not all fun and games. At the steak fry last September, Mrs. Clinton (who took the podium with a prolonged “Iowa, I’m baaaaaack!”) struggled to connect on the kind of grass-roots retail level that is critical in the early nominating state.

On Saturday, she will not speak on the “soapbox” at the fair grounds where most candidates will deliver remarks, but will instead visit booths to talk directly to Iowans, her campaign said. Mrs. Clinton’s decision not to jump on the soapbox and its bipartisan crowd, which Mr. O’Malley embraced on Thursday evening and Mr. Sanders will address on Saturday, has drawn some criticism from opposing campaigns that say she is avoiding the tough venue.

After all, ordering the ultimate bacon explosion (a piece of brisket wrapped in bacon on a stick) and corn in a cup is not enough to deliver a caucus victory. And Mrs. Clinton, coincidentally, is on a diet.