The Republican Party of Iowa staged a tailgate party in Ames on Saturday before the Iowa/Iowa State football game and four Republican presidential candidates stopped by. An estimated 85,000 people were crammed into the parking lots around Jack Trice Stadium for the game-day mayhem.
“It took us about an hour to get over here,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told the crowd when he got to the GOP tailgate.
Politicking was not top of mind for most of the revelers. Cora Arnold is a mechanical engineering major at Iowa State. She and her friends had no idea presidential candidates were nearby.
“I’m not really thinking about who’s going to win the presidential race,” she said, laughing, as one of her friends chimed in with: “It’s probably exciting for people who are, like, into it.”
Another student had a name for those people: “Adults.”
And Arnold supplied the kicker: “Older people.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the youngest candidate in the race, took the students’ side on this one.
“They’re at a college football game,” said Rubio, who played football for one season at Tarkio College in Tarkio, Missouri.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul turned down a beer as he walked through the pregame crowd in Ames, but he stopped for a lot of snaps.
“Here, let me get a picture though, all together,” a woman nearby said to Paul after Paul turned down the brew. Paul responded, “All right,” and then slipped off his sunglasses for the photo.
Businessman Donald Trump went inside the stadium when he got to Ames, went onto the field during pregame warm-ups and posed for selfies with some of the players. Earlier in the afternoon Trump spoke to a big crowd in nearby Boone, but he was careful to avoid choosing sides.
“That makes sense,” Trump said. “Everybody fully understands that.”
(Additional reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell)