Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Home » Republican Presidential Candidates Descend on Lowa State Fair

Republican Presidential Candidates Descend on Lowa State Fair

by Koby John
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Over a million people visit the Iowa State Fair during its annual 11-day run in August.

But this year, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident Rick Stewart isn’t attending the fair to judge the livestock contests, sample the diverse food offerings — including pork chops on a stick — or lining up to see the life-size cow made entirely of butter.

He’s here to perform a civic duty.

“It’s a chance to see all the candidates for president,” Stewart told VOA. “They’ve got a soapbox event. They’ve got a sit-down with [Iowa Governor] Kim Reynolds if they are a Republican. And I feel it’s a personal obligation as an Iowan to go and do my homework, because the rest of the country is relying on us to caucus intelligently next January, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”

Just a few weeks ahead of the first Republican presidential debate, candidates are campaigning at the Iowa State Fair to court voters in the first state to say who they think should represent the Republican Party in the 2024 presidential election. With incumbent President Joe Biden the likely Democratic nominee, the race to challenge him on the Republican side is heating up under Iowa’s summer sun, although former president Donald Trump is the clear front-runner in most polls.

“I’ll be honest, I’m a Trump supporter. But I want to hear what the other people have to say,” said Celia Criswell, who had a choice location in the front row of seats at the Des Moines Register newspaper’s Political Soapbox stage, which provides an opportunity for candidates such as Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and businessman Perry Johnson — both significantly trailing Trump in polling — to make their campaign pitch directly to voters like Criswell in the hopes that they can change their minds — and their votes.

“I’m not sure at this point anything is going to shift it,” Criswell said. “Maybe in 2028 some of these people would be good for the presidency. Maybe they’re good for vice president right now.”

Trump has visited Iowa less than others seeking the nomination yet still enjoys support among likely Republican voters.

While most candidates appeared at the Political Soapbox or attended Reynolds’ “Fair-Side Chats,” Trump declined those opportunities and instead visited the fair on his own terms, flying in for a few hours on Saturday to walk among cheering crowds.

“I want to see him get in there and finish what he started,” Robert Hand said to VOA. Hand flew in from New Jersey to take in the political atmosphere the Iowa State Fair offers. He said his support for Trump remained, despite mounting legal issues the former president faces.

But other Republican voters at the fair voiced their concerns.

“Trump — I really loved what he did for his four years. But he’s getting up there in years,” said New Albany, Indiana, voter Terri Rumpf, who traveled to the fair seeking an alternative to the former president.

“If we get into the general [election], the comparisons with Biden with age is not a good thing. Plus, he’s got baggage. I don’t want all the riots in the streets for four more years,” she said.

“I think that the Republican team is very strong, especially the ones I’ve seen so far. I’m very impressed,” said Rick Stewart, who explained that while he is a supporter of the Libertarian Party, he’ll likely support a Republican in next year’s voting.

“I don’t believe that Trump can beat Biden. I hope that we don’t have that election again,” he said.

Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, said Stewart’s view reflects those of a number of Republican voters, “but not enough at this point to shift the momentum to other candidates.”

Hagle said that doing well in the Iowa caucuses is critical for those hoping to overtake Trump for the nomination, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“DeSantis really has to do well in Iowa, at least a very strong second, for him to have any viability going forward,” Hagle said. “But for Trump, if he wins, and especially if he wins big in Iowa, probably this time around it would portend that he would get the nomination.”

“I believe that every Republican candidate I’ve seen so far can beat Biden, and that would be good for me,” Stewart said. “But I’m not going to pick a favorite until I’ve seen them all.”

The Iowa State Fair ends Aug. 20. The first Republican presidential debate is Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Voters cast ballots in the lead-off Iowa caucus on Jan. 15.

Source : VOA News

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