Dems Vie for Grand Prize of American Politics at State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Nine Democratic presidential candidates took turns on the Political Soapbox stage at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, and much like fair exhibitors in the livestock arenas, they are trying to show why they should win the grand prize of American presidential politics.

With a field of upwards of two-dozen candidates, each of the Democrats hoping win the Iowa caucuses next February has to persuade voters that he or she is the one to do what all Democratic candidates without exception agree on: Make Donald Trump into a one-term president.

To do that, they will have to move beyond winning the hearts and minds of Iowa Democrats to build support in the middle to bring back voters who supported Barack Obama twice before switching to Donald Trump in 2016 (which happened in a third of Iowa’s counties).

2020 Democratic hopefuls stand together before the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)
From left, Democratic president candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stand together before the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom on Friday in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)

At this point in Iowa, however, the candidates’ messages resemble an echo chamber.

The 17 Democratic candidates who have spoken on the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox so far at this year’s Iowa State Fair agree on a laundry list of issues, ranging from gun control, climate change and at least some form of health care for all to comprehensive immigration reform. And, of course, defeating Trump.

On Saturday, when nine candidates spoke, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts drew one of the largest crowds, which spilled well beyond the soapbox stage area and into the street, blocking traffic and causing chaos with reports of jostling pedestrians being knocked over. And she gave one of the briefest speeches, taking up half her allotted time.

In that time, she repeated many lines that have been heard before.

“I am sick and tired of living in a country that works for a thinner and thinner slice of Americans. I want an America that works for everyone,” she said, and not just for big pharmaceutical companies, corporations and the wealthy.

Warren supporters in the crowd were evident when she talked about her proposed wealth tax, which would put a 2-cent tax on every dollar above fortunes exceeding $50 million, which she said would pay for everything from child care and college-debt forgiveness to support for black colleges.

At this point, her backers chanted “Two cents,” “two cents,” “two cents” repeatedly.

Kamala Harris at Iowa State Fair on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. (CNS/Rox Laird)

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California repeated her applause line on Trump: “Dude’s gotta go.”

She said Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan raises the question: “For who?”

She asked: Do we want to go back to the time before the Voting Rights Act, before the Civil Rights Act, before the Housing Rights Act, before minimum wage was created?

One Harris line not heard from other candidates at the fair: “We need a new commander in chief,” she said, referring to the current one who has taken the word of the leaders of Russia, North Korea and Saudi Arabia over that of American intelligence officials.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan did something brave for a political candidate in the heart of the Corn Belt: He said agriculture is “destroying the soil and the environment.”

“I want to transform the agricultural system,” he said, by moving toward a sustainable, “regenerative agriculture” which he said would help farmers become profitable again.

Amy Klobuchar, at Iowa State Fair on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. (CNS/Rox Laird)

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar exploited a unique advantage for winning applause at the fair Saturday: “We can see Iowa from our porch,” said the native Minnesotan.

She also noted her agricultural bona fides as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, where she worked to get soil conservation incentives in a new Farm Bill.

She said she has the chops to win in 2020.

After ticking off all of the things she wants to accomplish as president, however, she pointed out the obvious: “We can’t do any of these things if we can’t win in November 2020.”

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