Iowa State Fair hosts weekend full of presidential candidates

(Large spillover crowd awaits Senator Bernie Sanders appearance at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox event)

Des Moines, Iowa - The crowds were large and swelled onto the adjacent street for the Des Moines Register Soapbox political event at the Iowa State Fair over the weekend.

Thirteen Democrats and one Republican took the stage with the intent of bonding with Iowans who would possibly take part in the state’s one-of-a-kind caucuses that kick off the presidential primaries in February.

In the twenty minutes they were each given, the candidates were generally short on policy detail, instead focused on making a connection with the audience through impassioned speeches.Many, including the front runners, reached out asking for support and votes in the same way a candidate for a local mayor’s race might.

Some used the platform to offer sweeping proposals. One of the Democratic front runners, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said she’d implement the biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate. Earlier Saturday, California Senator Kamala Harris offered a $6,000 tax credit for incomes under $100,000.

On the same day, Harris received the endorsement of one of the state’s Democratic power couples. Bob and Sue Dvorsky are a former state senator and party chair respectively. They were early supporters of Barack Obama in 2007 before he won the state caucuses over front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Harris has also beefed up her Iowa staff and presence in the past several weeks after previously focusing on South Carolina, figuring that state offered a better chance for an early primary victory. In addition, Harris placed a six figure ad on TV and digital media in Iowa late last week.

Senator Bernie Sanders drew the biggest throng of vocal supporters for the Soapbox during his Sunday appearance. He also made the most direct attack on President Trump, calling him a racist on stage.

Sanders seemed to assume ownership of the state fair as he moved around its grounds. He may need any boost he might get from his appearance there as the latest Monmouth Poll of likely Iowa caucus goers has him dropping to fourth place with nine percent of the vote.

Former Vice President Joe Biden sits atop the poll at 28 percent, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren – 19 percent, and a surging Senator Kamala Harris – 11 percent. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the top five with eight percent.

In addition to Sanders, other Democrats drawing big crowds during the weekend Soapbox speeches were Harris, Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. (Biden drew a sizable crowd Thursday)

Four of those five – Harris, Warren, Klobuchar and Booker – have qualified for the next round of Democratic presidential debates in September. They are joined Sanders, Biden, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and business Andrew Yang.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro are close to qualifying. Both have met the 130,000-donor benchmark set by the Democratic National Committee. Castro is close to the other requirement to have registered 2 percent in four polls. He’s currently one poll short while Gabbard needs three more to qualify.

Twenty-two of the roughly two-dozen Democratic candidates have or will appear at the Soapbox event. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is the only Republican.

Weld received a lukewarm reception in his Sunday appearance from a crowd more interested in hearing from Democrats.

Two more candidates will take the Soapbox stage during the fair; Buttigieg will speak Tuesday at 1:30 pm while Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulten appears on Saturday at 12 noon.

O'Rourke cancelled his appearance Saturday, opting to remain in his hometown of El Paso after a mass shooting there last weekend.

The dozen plus candidates that haven’t qualified for the next debates are hoping to get a spike from their Soapbox speeches.

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