October 31, 2014

GOP candidates flock to Fair

A handful of Republican presidential candidates made their own political pilgrimages to the Iowa State Fair today, including the six candidates who are participating in Saturday’s Straw Poll in Ames.

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Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann drew the largest crowd at The Des Moines Register’s “Soap Box” — for what turned out to be the shortest speech.

“It’s going to be a great election that’s coming up and Iowans are going to send the signal,” Bachmann said.”This is where Barack Obama got his start. This is where he’s going to come to his end, in Iowa.”

During her three-minute address, Bachmann noted Friday’s federal appeals court decision declaring the “individual mandate” portion of the health care reform law unconstitutional.

“Time for a real change,” Bachmann said, getting a burst of cheers for declaring: “We’re going to repeal ObamaCare.”

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty delivered a similar message during his State Fair speech.

“Tell Barack Obama he had his chance. It ain’t workin’,” Pawlenty said, standing with one foot resting on a bale of hay decorating the State Fair stage.

Pawlenty spoke for about 10 minutes, then answered questions from the crowd.  Pawlenty was briefly heckled just as fellow candidate Mitt Romney had been the day before during a speech at the Fair. Pawlenty defended the man’s right to free speech, and returned to his central theme.

“Barack Obama had his chance. He came through Iowa and other places and said, ‘Vote for me,’ and he had these great speeches and great rhetoric,” Pawlenty said at the Fair. “But great speeches doesn’t put gas in my car, great speeches doesn’t pay your mortgage….great speeches doesn’t buy your groceries.”

Texas Congressman Ron Paul spoke over the noon-hour, drawing a large and enthusiastic crowd.

“I’m just wondering, how many will be in Ames tomorrow?” Paul began, getting a show of hands. “Yea! That looks good. Maybe we can get a few more of you to come, too, as well. Of course, I think of all you know why candidates are in Iowa this week.”

Paul offered up his core campaign message, that the solution to the nation’s woes is to “drastically shrink the size of our federal government.”

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who visited the fair today, said she thinks “Ron Paul still has a great chance of winning the straw poll.” But Palin cautioned that straw polls are “not always the barometer” of what “everybody’s thinking” about a presidential race. And Palin told reporters she is still thinking about running for president herself.

(Reporting at the Fair by Radio Iowa contributor Andrew Duffelmeyer of Des Moines; editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)