mcloudy.png
Thursday October 22nd, 2020 10:44AM

Fried Oreos here: Iowa State Fair a must for 2020 hopefuls

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Howard Dean took one bite of a deep-fried Oreo and dismissively pitched the rest into the garbage.

Mitt Romney famously flipped a pork chop, right into the gravel. And John Kerry capped his Iowa State Fair fare with a strawberry smoothie, rather than a cold beer that offered a chance for him to seem connected with regular folks.

"I wouldn't order a smoothie," said Jeff Link, a veteran Iowa Democratic operative. "That kind of summed the whole thing up right there."

The state fair, a quadrennial presidential prerequisite stop, is a cultural obstacle course more fraught with pitfalls than opportunities to sway the narrow band of voters who will attend the state's kickoff caucuses in less than six months. Starting Thursday, more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates will begin weighing nutritionally questionable food choices and navigating media flocks resembling crows on a French fry — all while trying to seem both presidential and comfortable with the folkways of Middle America.

This year, selections that include bacon-wrapped corn dogs and a monstrosity called the hot beef sundae pose particular challenges for Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a vegetarian, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who keeps vegan.

"There are few breakthrough moments, and the memorable ones are often not good," said John Norris, who managed John Kerry's 2004 Iowa caucus campaign.

Joe Biden, who will return to the fair Thursday, would know.

In August 1987, he lifted passages of a speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock's speech without attribution during a 1987 Democratic candidates' debate at the fair. The revelation punctuated previous questions of plagiarism that shadowed Biden and led ultimately to his early drop from the 1988 race.

It was an epic fair fail. But presidential history also is sprinkled with winning performances.

In 2007, Barack Obama's romp through the Midway with his family — and iconic turn on the bumper cars with his daughter Sasha — cast a glow over the rising Illinois senator.

But for every such gauzy memory, there are more clunkers, or worse yet, permanent scars.

In 2007, amid heavy expectations, former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson famously made his Iowa debut by attending the Iowa State Fair wearing a pair of $500 Gucci loafers.

That was after he was chauffeured down the voter-packed Grand Concourse by golf cart to meet his escort, the notoriously frugal Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. Thompson stayed aboard the cart, waving only occasionally at the many star-struck voters who recognized him.

The episode was hardly a black eye. But, just as Kerry's smoothie contributed to questions about the Massachusetts senator's connection to regular folk, Thompson's less-than-enthusiastic embrace of the time-honored Iowa tradition clashed with the down-home Southerner he often portrayed as an actor.

Some candidates this year may be better-prepared than others. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will avoid Kerry's oversight. Hickenlooper, who founded a successful brewery, will pour beers for fairgoers at the craft beer tent.

On Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar joked about her love of a good state fair, noting she attends the fair in her neighboring home state of Minnesota every year — and that she, too, has experience with butter sculptures.

"One thing we have in common, of course, as strong dairy states, is the butter carving. I am looking very forward to seeing your butter cow at the Iowa State Fair. I am going to have to decide if it holds a candle to our Princess Kay of the Milky Way statue," she said, referencing Minnesota's iconic butter bust.

One test, the soap box speech, has carried potentially dangerous repercussions, thanks to the once idealistic notion of a former Des Moines Register editor.

"I think the challenge is the soap box speech, getting through it without incident or statements that come back to haunt you," said former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

In 2002, then-political editor Blair Claflin mused about promoting the Register while drawing candidates, otherwise given to holding court while roaming the fairgrounds, to a single location.

Claflin's idea, a take on 19th century street-corner oratory, would become the Register's Political Soapbox. Now entering its 18th year, the once simple straw-bale and poor-quality microphone setup has evolved into a constructed stage that campaign organizers pack with supporters in hopes of projecting momentum.

"Under the best of circumstances, I figured it might become a quaint Iowa State Fair tradition, requiring just a microphone and a few bales of hay," said Claflin, now director of sustainability communications at Cummins Inc. in Indiana. "More than 20 presidential candidates over a week speaking from a stage? I never imagined anything like that."

In 2015, would-be presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump skipped the Register venue during their fair tours. Trump made a decidedly Trumpian entrance, on his private helicopter. But he had the crowd when he provided children a ride.

Their decision to skip the speechifying may have been influenced by Romney's contentious episode at the Register venue in 2011, when the former Massachusetts governor got in a testy back-and-forth with protesters, eliciting one of the 2012 campaign's most memorable, if awkward, lines.

"Corporations are people, my friend. Of course they are," Romney countered to a protester angry that corporations weren't paying higher taxes. "Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people."

The exchange, captured by the crowd of national media on hand, punctuated the narrative that the wealthy former venture capitalist was out of sync with voters.

Then there are achingly awkward moments that point to a candidate's long odds.

Bob Graham sang from the Register venue, "You've got a friend in Bob Graham," a tune he'd attributed to his 40 years of success in Florida politics. The smattering of applause became a metaphor for Graham's presidential campaign, which ended before the caucuses.

But what a candidate eats often is the most scrutinized, if certainly visual, image at the fair, home to deep-fried everything.

Not to be outdone by anyone, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich wolfed down not one but three pork chops at the must-stop Iowa Pork Producers complex.

Despite the minefield the fair presents, candidates can gain something beyond a strategic advantage in Iowa if they listen to the people they meet, said veteran Republican strategist Bob Haus.

"People are honest. They'll tell you what they think because they're on their turf, and often have a few beers in them," Haus said. "So you honestly get feedback. A lot you like, and some you may not."

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Biden: Trump 'fanning the flames of white supremacy'
Biden accuses Trump of "fanning the flames of white supremacy" and offering "no moral leadership"
12:23AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Fried Oreos here: Iowa State Fair a must for 2020 hopefuls
Fried Oreos, hot beef sundaes: Iowa State Fair a perilous must for 2020 candidates
12:20AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Puerto Rico braces for more protests against latest governor
Puerto Ricans are bracing for more political turmoil as the third governor in a week takes charge of the U.S. territory still divided over who should lead the economically struggling island of 3.2 million people
12:02AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Honolulu authorities investigate arsons at 3 Waikiki hotels
Hawaii authorities say they are investigating three fires that were intentionally set in different high-rise resort hotels near Waikiki Beach over the past few days
11:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
Puerto Ricans get their 3rd governor in 6 days
Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez has been sworn in as the island's new governor, culminating weeks of political turmoil
10:41PM ( 1 hour ago )
Texas governor says 'no red flags' in El Paso suspect's past
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he's not aware of any 'red flags' in the suspected El Paso gunman's past and made no mention of taking major gun-control measures
10:30PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
New Michael Moore-backed doc tackles alternative energy
Michael Moore takes on alternative energy in explosive new doc 'Planet of the Humans'
7:51PM ( 4 hours ago )
Canadian police say 2 bodies found, believed to be fugitives
Canadian police say they believe the two fugitives suspected of killing a North Carolina woman and her Australian boyfriend as well as another man have been found dead in dense brush in northern Manitoba
7:04PM ( 5 hours ago )
Defense suggests different suspect in serial killing trial
An attorney for a man charged with killing two women and attempting to kill a third in Southern California told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday that actor Ashton Kutcher's testimony helps point to a different suspect.
6:57PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Hannity to de Blasio: 'You drive me crazy!'
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sparred, clashed and laughed with Fox News host Sean Hannity
11:46PM ( 46 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump wraps up visits to mass shooting sites
President Donald Trump has wrapped up his visits to cities reeling from mass shootings that left 31 dead and dozens more wounded
11:18PM ( 1 hour ago )
O'Rourke skips Iowa, stays in El Paso after mass shooting
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is canceling a series of campaign stops in Iowa and will remain in El Paso, Texas, through the weekend as his hometown continues to cope with a mass shooting that killed 22 people
7:02PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Trump heads to Dayton hospital, protesters await
President Donald Trump and the first lady are heading to the hospital in Dayton, Ohio, where many of the victims of Sunday's attack were treated
11:40AM ( 12 hours ago )
The Latest: Booker says racism is a national security issue
Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker says racism and white supremacy are "issues of national security"
10:33AM ( 13 hours ago )
Some skeptical as Trump prepares to visit sites of shootings
Trump's plan to visit Ohio and Texas in an appeal for unity and healing after mass shootings draws skepticism from some residents, Democratic candidates
8:24AM ( 16 hours ago )
General Election News
The Latest: O'Rourke to speak out at rally as Trump visits
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is attending an El Paso, Texas community rally timed to serve as counterprogramming to President Donald Trump's visit
8:14AM ( 16 hours ago )
Taliban claim suicide car bombing in west Kabul, dozens hurt
Taliban suicide car bomber targets police headquarters in minority Shiite part of Kabul; dozens hurt
3:48AM ( 20 hours ago )
Casting director David Rubin elected film academy president
Casting director David Rubin has been elected the new president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that bestows the Oscars
2:26AM ( 22 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
Authorities scour leads in mass shootings that left 31 dead
Authorities in two U.S. cities scoured leads in a pair of weekend mass shootings that killed 31, trying to piece together the motives that led two young men to unleash violence on innocent people in crowded public places
5:33AM ( 1 day ago )
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse kicks off re-election campaign
Ben Sasse of Nebraska kicks off his re-election campaign for US senator surrounded by top Republicans who vouched for the first-term lawmaker as best candidate in the deeply conservative state
8:33PM ( 2 days ago )
Buttigieg ramps up outreach to Democratic superdelegates
Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is reaching out to Democratic Party figures with the prospect of a contested convention in mind
7:10PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Biden: Trump 'fanning the flames of white supremacy'
Biden accuses Trump of "fanning the flames of white supremacy" and offering "no moral leadership"
12:23AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Puerto Rico braces for more protests against latest governor
Puerto Ricans are bracing for more political turmoil as the third governor in a week takes charge of the U.S. territory still divided over who should lead the economically struggling island of 3.2 million people
12:01AM ( 31 minutes ago )
Asian stocks rebound after volatile Wall Street day
Asian stocks rebound after Wall Street recovers from volatile day to eke out a gain
12:00AM ( 32 minutes ago )
Hannity to de Blasio: 'You drive me crazy!'
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sparred, clashed and laughed with Fox News host Sean Hannity
11:46PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Yankees hit 5 HRs, rip Orioles 14-2 for 8th straight win
Gio Urshela and Kyle Higashioka each hit two home runs, and the Yankees' long-ball outburst against the Baltimore Orioles reached historical proportions in a 14-2 blowout that extended New York's winning streak to eight games
11:33PM ( 59 minutes ago )