- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2015


It is a candidate’s challenge: The Iowa State Fair opened for business in Des Moines on Thursday, and with it comes the “Candidate Soapbox,” set smack in the middle of the main concourse. Over the next nine days, 16 presidential candidates will have 20 minutes to have their say before God, country, cows, locals and journalists who hope some hapless hopeful will have a fried-food malfunction for the cameras. They speak without notes or talking points.

And the soapbox? It is a small stage with a single hand held microphone - plus hay bales, inopportune cell phones videos and frequent national press. This is a spot where the candidates can be heckled - and they are, frequently. In 2012, then GOP hopeful Mitt Romney wrangled with the audience over Social Security and his idea that corporations were “people.”

George Washington historic impersonator Ron Carnegie - in full costume, accompanied by a fife and drum duo and speaking with noble purpose - launched the big doings. His appearance is a civic-minded initiative of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, where authenticity is a key factor - and he is off to similar New Hampshire events next week. The soapbox itself is a longstanding project of The Des Moines Register; the speeches will be covered live by C-SPAN as part of the network’s  “Road to the White House” coverage leading up to the 2016 vote.

Thursday is busy: Mike Huckabee was first up - recommending his audience try a pork chop on a stick and advising. “Hillary may not be here. She’ll email in her appearances.”

Next up: Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley. Jeb Bush will be along Friday; Rick Santorum, Lincoln Chafee and Sen. Bernard Sanders on Saturday. Oddly enough, both Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton are scheduled to attend the fair on Saturday as well — but neither has confirmed if the soapbox is on their agenda. While he’s there, Mr. Trump sits down for a face-to-face interview with NBC “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd to talk about his rivals, the economy, immigration and foreign policy, the network says. The exchange airs on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson and George Pataki arrive on Sunday; Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina and Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday. And the rest: Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich; Wednesday, Rick Perry; Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz; and Saturday, Govs. Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal.

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