August 28th, 2007
10:30 AM ET
15 years ago

Iowa State Fair: A candidate's dream come true... or is it?

McCain at the Iowa state fair earlier this month.

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - Some might say that when it comes to presidential politics and making firsthand decisions, Iowa State Fair-goers are spoiled rotten.

"I think it's a good deal," said Craig Swalwell, resting in the shade on the final night of the fair.

On the other hand, some would beg to differ.

"I think they ought to stay away," said Joel Morenz standing in the back at the "American Idols Live" concert on the grounds that same night.

Over the course of a 10 day period, Iowans had the chance to shake hands and personally ask questions of every major candidate - Democrat and Republican - all while enjoying a deep fried Twinkie on a stick inside the grounds of the fair. This, on top of the already abundant television ads and campaign stops across the state. And don't forget– we've still got four months before the caucuses and more than a year until the general election.

So who's enjoying the attention, and who's just plain sick and tired?

"It's kind of fun meeting them on the streets," said Felix Onoura of Lacona, Iowa. "That's a good chance for you to actually meet them one on one. When they become president you can't become close to them anymore.

"I met Ron Paul I think, or something like that, on the first day," Onoura continued. "I asked him what he was going to do for the country, and he said he was going to bring the troops home."

"People get to personally meet them," said Swalwell. "You know you don't get to do that everyday.

"We're all in search of a good candidate," he continued.

Ellen Wonderlin of Des Moines said, "Anytime you mix them in with any group of people it's a good thing, and there's a good mix of people here."

And we're not talking about some small group of people either. On any given day at the fair, there are between 75,000 and 100,000 people. No wonder the candidates stop by and eat pork chops on a stick.

"Iowans at the state fair certainly know that candidates show up there not because they love corndogs or funnel cakes, but because they're politicking," said Dennis Goldford, a professor of politics at Drake University in Des Moines. "What candidates are doing in that context really is attempting to show Iowans that they understand the concerns of Iowans."

But it seems that message isn't getting through to everyone.

Josh Beal of Bondurant, Iowa, said he's glad they visit Iowa frequently, but doesn't think much of them trying to be "Iowans for a day" at the fair.

"Eating corn dogs? Big whoop. I do that every year," he said.

Carol Tinlin of Des Moines feels the same.

"If you're down south you don't start speaking a Southern language," she said. "They've tried to become the people that they're talking to just to gain their votes.

"I didn't pay any attention to them," she continued. "I didn't care. It was hot, and I just wanted to come and see what we wanted to see."

And presidential candidates were not on that list.

"I do appreciate them coming," she said. "It's just not for me.I pay more attention to the news on TV. I think that's easier than in a big crowd to see the candidates."

Morenz said if he'd have walked past one of them speaking at the fair, he would have kept moving. "I don't believe a word they say," he said. "They're trying to impress me. I look at what they voted on."

But no matter how these people feel about the candidates, their love for the tradition that is the Iowa State Fair will never fade.

"This is like the best time of the year to be an Iowan," said Beal. "Everything's here."

He added, "A pork chop, a rack of lamb, a wool sweater. It's everything that's great about being an Iowan... Whether you like it or not, it's all here in one spot."

Ain't that the truth.

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Iowa • Presidential Candidates
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Evelyn, Norfolk VA

    Well, I hope the republicians are taken accounts of their senators. I just wish people like him should not have be given the opportunity to serve in public office.

    August 28, 2007 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |