Dem 51
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GOP 49
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It's Pork-Chop-on-a-Stick Time

There are plenty of storied traditions in presidential politics, like Dixville Notch, NH, announcing who won its precinct at 12:01 a.m. on Election Day, but few are as food-oriented as the Iowa State Fair. Every August since 1854, farmers and visitors (now a million strong) show up at the fairgrounds to eat strange foods, like pork chops on a stick, funnel cakes, apple eggrolls, jalapeño Twinkies, grinder balls, and deep-fried strawberry shortcake. Another tradition going back to 1972, when the Democrats put the Iowa caucuses first in line, is the fair turning into an open-air cattle call (for politicians, along with the famous butter cow). In election and pre-election years, all the candidates show up and mix with the voters while scarfing down the local delicacies. This year was no exception:

Donald Trump was there on Saturday, along with the Seven Dwarfs—no wait, that is a (slightly) different story, one involving diamond miners instead of gold diggers. Trump didn't speak at The Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox, but actions speak louder than words. And his action was to be accompanied by a small pod (swarm? herd? troop? flock? plague?) of Florida congresscritters who have endorsed him rather than their state's governor. Trump is leading DeSantis in Iowa polls by 20+ points, but not showing up at the Fair would be a grave insult that Iowans would not forget, so he was there.

Last week on the conservative Ruthless podcast, DeSantis, who is getting more desperate by the day, announced that he would do the "full Grassley"—that is, visit every one of Iowa's 99 counties. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) does it every year and he keeps winning elections, so why not? Of course, these are Grassley's own constituents, so it makes some sense to show them that he cares about every part of his state. DeSantis is not from Iowa so it is a dumb stunt and nobody is going to fall for it.

Not everyone enjoyed DeSantis' visit. His (public) chat with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) was interrupted repeatedly by demonstrators ringing cow bells and blowing whistles. They were protesting some of his policies. DeSantis tried to calm them by saying what a great vice president Reynolds would make. Reynolds politely asked them to be "Iowa nice." It didn't work. Some protesters had a megaphone (which is different from a magaphone) and used it to yell "Ron DeFascist" and "pudding fingers." Reynolds also chatted with the other candidates (except Trump) and none of the other "fair-side" chats drew any protests.

After the chat, DeSantis demonstrated, too. He demonstrated that he has a very thin skin—not a good thing for a controversial politician to have. He called the boo-birds "radical leftists." He said: "Well, look, I think when the left comes out that's a sign of strength because like, they know that we will beat Biden and they know we will be able to turn this country around and they do not want that." A more deft politician would have blown them off with a joke, like: "I appreciate that even the cows love me here and ring their bells for me." As we have observed before, dealing with actual voters is not DeSantis' forte. And we're not the only ones to have noticed that DeSantis has a likeability problem. As we noted in yesterday's mailbag, someone went to the trouble of making a big banner reading "Be likeable, Ron!" and had a plane trawl the skies overhead with it.

Plane towing banner reading: Be likeable, Ron

Nikki Haley got on the Register's soapbox and spoke... out of both sides of her mouth. At the same time. She announced that she was strongly pro-life but also that we should help women who have had an abortion. She wants to have it both ways. It won't work. As former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Hightower once observed: "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos." Haley wore a T-shirt reading: "Underestimate me. That'll be fun." OK. We'll start right now. See, it's fun already.

Mike Pence also got on the soapbox. He said: "I'm a small-town guy from southern Indiana. This is my strike zone. Being in the livestock barn, going to the pork tent. I mean, this is a home court advantage for me." Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) told reporters he is "the least-known of any of eight people on the debate stage; we just have to be ourselves and, America, get them a chance to get to know us." In other words, North Dakota is so boring that even Iowa seems wild and crazy to him. (V)

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