POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Presidential candidates try to stand out at the Iowa State Fair

Aug 15, 2023, 5:00 PM

Presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair: Former VP Mike Pence...

DES MOINES, IOWA - AUGUST 10: Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence pose for selfies with supporters at the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, are expected to visit the fair, a tradition in one of the first states to hold caucuses in 2024. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

DES MOINES — Over the weekend, presidential candidates attended the Iowa State Fair — hitting the carnival rides, rapping, and pitching their messages to the Iowa caucus voters who will be some of the first to vote in 2024.

And, just as in recent years past, there are many Republican candidates trying to make a name for themselves in a crowded field.   

Why is the Iowa State Fair important?

This year, all major Republican presidential candidates were in attendance, except for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Democratic candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson made an appearance, even though the Democratic National Committee voted in February to replace Iowa with South Carolina as the party’s first nominating state.

Historically, the Iowa State Fair gave candidates a chance to prove themselves by talking to voters, discussing policy, and gaining a boost of support before the debates. Many try to capture the spotlight by drawing attention to themselves.

In 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump arrived via helicopter and offered rides to children. His opponent John Kasich turn some heads after he ate three pork chops in 30 minutes.

Here’s how Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy tried to differentiate themselves this weekend.

Highlights from this year

Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy let out his inner Eminem by rapping “Lose Yourself.” Ramaswamy was signing autographs when the Eminem song started playing.

Former President Donald Trump made another huge splash at the fair Saturday. Although he only spent about an hour, he spent $20,000 on food — donating  $10,000 to people in attendance, and another $10,000 at the Steer N’ Stein bar where he held the event.

Some candidates were caught having some fun and acting like everyday Americans at the fair. Former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley played Skeeball and basketball. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rode in a bumper car with his daughter Madison.

DES MOINES, IOWA - AUGUST 12: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rides in a bumper car with his daughter Madison at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.S. President Donald Trump, are visiting the fair to greet fairgoers prior to states to hold caucuses in 2024. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

DES MOINES, IOWA – AUGUST 12: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rides in a bumper car with his daughter Madison at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.S. President Donald Trump, are visiting the fair to greet fairgoers prior to states to hold caucuses in 2024. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The main Republican candidates will see each other again on August 23 at the Milwaukee presidential debate. The 2-hour debate will start at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Former President Donald Trump has not made clear his commitment to attend.

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Presidential candidates try to stand out at the Iowa State Fair