State Fair Ends with Presidential Straw Poll

DES MOINES — Iowans have a chance to cast their first unofficial ballot for president as this year’s State Fair draws to a close Sunday, and the Secretary of State is encouraging people to take part while registering to vote if they have not done so.

The Iowa State Fair has long been known for agriculture, celebrity likenesses carved in butter, and — as host of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses — grassroots political campaigning. This year is no exception. Republican presidential hopefuls have descended on the fair ahead of the first national GOP debate.

Paul Pate, Secretary of State, said while the politicians’ State Fair “soap box” speeches tend to cater to the Hawkeye State’s rural roots, Iowans’ voices play a key role in the nominating process nationwide.

“We’ve got a significant responsibility helping with this job interview for candidates running for president, and we need to take that role seriously,” Pate asserted. “We need to make sure we’re asking the tough questions of candidates, giving the rest of the country a chance to see and hear how they answer it.”

Despite some disruption in the schedule, the Republican presidential caucus is still scheduled to be the nation’s first on Jan. 15, while Democrats are still finalizing their date.

Pate noted while the candidates’ messages are targeted to Iowans, the issues they discuss in their speeches cut across party and geographical lines. Pate added being just a few feet away from the candidates allows people to ask questions, rather than hearing more well-worn campaign slogans.

“You get much more access than you might if it was just a retail campaign where they bought a bunch of radio, TV and newsprint ads and bombard you with just direct mail. That’s all one-sided. One way,” Pate pointed out. “This requires them to actually think on their feet.”

The Iowa State Fair, which dates to 1854, wraps up Sunday. The Iowa caucuses were made famous in 1976, when a little-known Georgia peanut farmer-turned-governor named Jimmy Carter burst onto the political scene and went on to win the presidency.