The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

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TUESDAY, AUGUST 13 , 2019. THE WASHINGTON POST EZ RE A


Politics & the Nation


BY HOLLY BAILEY

des moines — Amy Klobuchar
stood over the searing heat of a
smoking grill to flip pork chops.
She sampled cheese curds. She
stood in line to gaze upon the
famous Iowa State Fair butter
cow, in all its creamy yellow
majesty.
By the time the senator from
Minnesota left the fair Saturday
night, she had spent nearly eight
hours on the ground, smiling and
shaking hands and doing all the
things that White House aspi-
rants do when they make their
quadrennial pilgrimage to this
playground of fried food and
presidential politics.
“Maybe I haven’t had a viral
moment,” Klobuchar told a crowd
of more than 1,000 gathered to
hear her speak at the fair’s politi-
cal soapbox. But she invoked
another Democrat, Jimmy Carter,
who had wandered through here
as a long shot for the presidency
before his campaign caught fire,
signaling that she hoped Iowans
would help hers do the same.
For Klobuchar and other Dem-
ocrats stuck near the bottom of
the polls in a historically large
field, the Iowa State Fair offered
one of the brightest spotlights of
the election contest so far, out-


side of the debates. These hope-
fuls addressed some of the largest
crowds of their campaigns at the
soapbox and attracted outsize
media attention from the nearly
800 reporters and photographers
credentialed for this year’s fair,
far more than in any other year.
When businessman Andrew
Yang made his way around the
fair Friday, he was trailed by a few
dozen photographers, at least five
camera crews and around 15 re-
porters. The crush was not much
smaller than the chaotic media
contingent that pursued former
vice president Joe Biden during
his visit the day before, though
Yang has the support of only
about 2 percent of Democratic
voters in Iowa, according to the
latest polls. (A quarter say they
support Biden.)
Yang has attracted some of the
biggest crowds of the campaign
but not as much media attention.
At the fair, he drank lemonade,
nibbled on a corn dog and happi-
ly bit into a gigantic turkey leg for
the cameras, at one point waving
the bone in the air for dramatic
effect like the costumed Viking
warriors he had once seen at a
Renaissance fair.
“This is gooood,” he declared.
In a quiet moment behind a
food stand, Yang acknowledged

that he found the attention a bit
surreal. The year before, he had
walked through the fairgrounds
totally unknown, trying to garner
any media coverage he could for
his upstart campaign. Now, he
was happy to mug for the camer-
as, insisting that any publicity is
good if it raises awareness of his
campaign among voters.
“I’ll take it,” Yang said. “If
people want to follow me around
and hear what I have to say, to me,
this is a good thing.”

The fair comes at a crucial time
in the race for the Democratic
presidential nomination. Candi-
dates are expecting the field of
roughly two dozen presidential
contenders to winnow in coming
weeks as they stare down stricter
qualifications for upcoming de-
bates and a tougher struggle to
raise money.
“People are going to start fac-
ing a very different reality than
they have before,” said Sue Dvor-

sky, a longtime party activist and
former Iowa Democratic Party
chair who formally endorsed Sen.
Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) on Sat-
urday. “This is the end of the
beginning, the end of the first
chapter of this campaign.... It’s
going to get smaller. It has to.
We’re not going to caucus for 20
people.”
The Democratic National
Committee has stepped up the
entry requirements for next
month’s primary debate, sched-

uled for Sept. 12 (and possibly
Sept. 13) in Houston. To get on-
stage, candidates must register
2 percent support in four polls
and have a minimum of 130,
donors, with at least 400 donors
in 20 states by Aug. 28.
While Klobuchar and Yang
have qualified, several candi-
dates who spent the most time
walking around the fair this
weekend have not, including
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)

and Michael F. Bennet (Colo.),
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, for-
mer Colorado governor John
Hickenlooper, former U.S. hous-
ing and urban development sec-
retary Julián Castro and New
York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
On Friday, Castro walked the
fairgrounds with his family,
trailed by a large media contin-
gent that captured every little
moment — including when the
candidate stepped in cow ma-
nure while visiting one of the
livestock barns. Castro simply
walked on.
Some of the Democratic hope-
fuls toured the midway, a large
entourage of reporters in tow.
Bullock, dressed in jeans and
cowboy boots, rode the giant
slide. Castro and his family rode
the Tilt-a-Whirl. Hickenlooper, a
former brewery owner, hit the
beer tent.
After two rather sedate debate
performances, Bennet delivered
a fiery speech at the soapbox,
where he reveled in boos from
supporters of Sen. Bernie Sand-
ers (I-Vt.) after he criticized the
idea of Medicare-for-all. Bennet
followed it up by riding the Hang
Glider with his two daughters, a
ride where passengers are sus-
pended and twirled high in the
air.

On the ground below, journal-
ists watched as the senator went
from laughing to appearing
slightly queasy. “He looks like he’s
going to hurl!” a photographer
said.
On Saturday, Gillibrand spent
hours at the fair, walking the
grounds with her husband and
two young sons. Before speaking
at the soapbox, where she devot-
ed most of her speech to making
the case for her struggling candi-
dacy and asking voters to donate
to keep her 2020 aspirations go-
ing, she stopped at the fair’s “Cast
Your Kernel” contest, where fair-
goers register support for presi-
dential hopefuls by placing a corn
kernel into a jar labeled with the
candidate’s name.
As a mob of reporters watched
and filmed, Gillibrand handed
her kernel to her 11-year-old son,
Henry, who teased his mother by
lingering over the jar for Sen.
Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). “Come
on,” Gillibrand said. “I deserve a
vote.” After a few seconds, Gilli-
brand guided her son’s hand to
her jar.
“She’s pretty good,” Henry said.
“I’ll vote for her.”
holly.bailey@washpost.com

Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed to
this report.

Stalled in polls, they’re still stars at the Iowa State Fair


PHOTOS BY SALWAN GEORGES/THE WASHINGTON POST

From left, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), businessman Andrew Yang and former HUD secretary Julián Castro make the rounds at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.


“If people want to follow me around and hear


what I have to say, to me, this is a good thing.”
Andrew Yang, Democratic presidential candidate

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