It’s August again, when Iowans head to the State Fair, indulge in odd fried foods, and mingle with political candidates. It’s as American as apple pie on a stick.
The eleven-day long fair, which opens Thursday, is a traditional stop for politicians in the state. A majority of the 2016 presidential candidates will be there. But this year, the Hawkeye State’s other August ritual—the Iowa Straw Poll—has been dropped from the political calendar.
That’s not to take away from Iowa’s relevance in the presidential race as an early primary state. The State Fair provides the opportunity for candidates, especially those in the shadow of the frontrunners, to distinguish themselves in a crowded 2016 field. Last week’s televised debate, for example, boosted Carly Fiorina and cemented Donald Trump’s lead in the polls. But the other candidates, perhaps less telegenic, found themselves overshadowed.
This week, in between sampling the ultimate bacon brisket bomb and trying fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick, candidates who excel at face-to-face interaction hope to find a way to stand out. More than a dozen candidates will participate in The Des Moines Register “soapbox,” where they’re allotted time to speak. And voters can come hear them, and judge their appeal in person.