The Iowa State Fair kicks off Thursday morning, an 11-day middle America extravaganza — and a unique opportunity for presidential candidates to mingle with the people, cook pork chops and pose in front of butter sculptures.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is scheduled to be the first candidate to visit, with an appearance at the fair’s “Soapbox” Thursday morning. Wednesday, he warmed up with an appearance at one of his favorite Iowa spots, the Pizza Ranch in Waukee, a Des Moines suburb.
Also scheduled to appear Thursday at the fair are Democratic contenders Jim Webb, the former U.S. senator from Virginia, and Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland. Friday, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and a Republican president contender, is to stop by, and Saturday features Rick Santorum, the 2012 Iowa Republican caucus winner. Also scheduled that day are Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island governor, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who are seeking the Democratic nomination.
The state’s Republican party is ready. “I urge you all, especially those of you ostensibly on a diet, to ditch the diet for a few days and indulge in fried mac ‘n cheese, pork chops on a stick, and the many other stick-related items,” advised Charles Szold, the party’s communications director.
Huckabee appeared in a back room Wednesday at the popular pizza and salad bar restaurant, taking questions as he spent an hour with voters. “Our system of government cannot function without people who have a moral foundation,” he told the appreciative audience. Think of how much better America would be, he said, if people didn’t steal, cheat lie and hurt each other.
He also insisted his experience as a governor is vital for the presidency. “This is no time to put somebody in the operating room who’s never held a scalpel,” Huckabee said.
He criticized his own party, noting that people elected a Republican Congress, but it’s failed to tackle the immigration issue, the Affordable Care Act or curbing executive power. “The donor class feeds the political class,” Huckabee said. “Nobody remembers the working class.”