By Zachary Toillion
The Iowa State Fair rolls around yearly and is known predominately for its eccentric foods and traditions. It is also a hotbed of political activity every year. 2014 proved to be no exception. It is in its capacity as a political forum that has sparked national interest in the Iowa State Fair. This year’s fair attracted two potential 2016 candidates and a high profile national political figure.
At the fair is a political tradition known simply as “The Soap Box”. The Soap Box allows candidates to give speeches on various topics and has been used as a tool by candidates wanting to get their message out. Previous speakers include Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
This year two Texans took the stage to test their 2016 messages. Gov. Rick Perry delivered a speech on August 12th and Sen. Ted Cruz gave his pitch to potential Iowa Caucus voters on August 9th. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, will take the stage on August 16th to counter the conservative speakers.
Anyone is allowed to attend a soap box speech, and this sometimes creates interesting political interactions. The Soap Box speech from 2011 is perhaps the best known example. Romney provided a critical gaffe for his campaign when he stated “corporations are people” in response to a heckler.
Many political groups set up booths for the fair including two pro-life advocate groups and booths that represented both the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties. Also present were the groups “No labels” and “Americans for Prosperity,” two groups that provide financial backing and endorsements to candidates nationwide.
Sen. Ted Cruz’s speech excoriated President Obama’s foreign policy, stating “I think the president should actually stand up and do his job as commander in chief, should spend less time on the golf course and more time doing the job to which he was elected,” later adding “I am glad the president is finally demonstrating some leadership, taking the threat from ISIS seriously, but unfortunately he’s following the pattern that has characterized his foreign policy from the beginning of this tenure which he has laid out no clearly defined objective that we’re trying to accomplish that is key to defending U.S. national security.” The message was well received by the 300 in attendance But also in attendance were hecklers shouting “Go back to Texas.”
Rick Perry similarly went after President Obama over foreign policy issues, “If we’re going to have a powerful influence around the world, we’re going to have to be able to project that power with a military that’s able to stand up. When a red line is drawn, that red line needs to mean something in the world. It needs to mean that America is going to stand with her allies, and the enemies of America need to fear what we’re about.” Approximately 200 were in attendance for Perry’s speech.