The Iowa State Fair got off to a hot start, with tens of thousands of people streaming through the fairgrounds and the Democrat who has caught the most fire in the race for president so far — former Vice President Joe Biden — attracting at least several hundred fairgoers to hear him speak.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, another presidential candidate, spoke before Biden. At least one fairgoer asked what office Bullock is running for. When the fairgoer was told Bullock is running for president, he said “of course,” and continued walking down the sidewalk.
Bullock began his address with a now-familiar joke about how he won’t tell the audience about his Iowa connections.
“I’m not going to tell you that my great-great-grandparents settled in Henry County in 1850, or that my mother was born in Ottumwa, because that’s not why we gather,” Bullock said.
The Montana governor’s tone turned serious, and he said they are gathering for “the sake of our nation […] and for the sake of the country we’re going to pass on to the next generation — we gather to make sure that Donald Trump is a one-term president.”
Bullock reiterated his support for making college more affordable.
“We have to invest in our education system … [invest] in higher [education] — freezing college tuition” Bullock said. “But also recognize that not everybody’s gonna go to college. Almost seven out of 10 Americans don’t have college degrees.”
Bullock left the stage set up for candidates to speak from, and was soon replaced by Biden. The former vice president was mobbed by supporters as he tried to get to the stage, with his staff somewhat successfully clearing a path for him.
“I’m running for three reasons,” Biden said, beginning his speech emphatically. “One, we have to restore the soul of this country […] the second reason I’m running is […] I want to restore to the backbone of this country, the backbone of this country is the middle class.”
Biden continued to list many of the things he supports, such as expanding health care availability, but he never explicitly listed a third reason why he is running.
Mo Lothi of Ankeny, who was wearing a shirt which said "44>45," with 44 colored blue and 45 red. Lothi said she plans to caucus for Biden, in part because he was former President Barack Obama’s “right-hand man”
“He’s a very good speaker, he doesn’t need a teleprompter,” Lothi said. “He’s a uniter, not a divider.”
Biden addressed the cost of college in his speech to fairgoers, repeating his expressed proposal to ensure every “qualified person” can attend a community college or a trade school for free, “cutting in half the cost of college.”
Gale Sporleder from Story City said she is supporting Joe Biden.
“I feel like he has the experience, the ability, the foresight — he knows where we need to go, I think he knows what needs to be done. For instance, health care,” Sporleder said. “A lot of [the other Democratic candidates] want to trash Obamacare, but what I think what they really need to do is just fix the parts that don’t work.”
Biden left the area where nearly two dozen more presidential candidates are set to speak to audiences over the next 10 days, but the crowd followed him as he traversed the fair.
A Monmouth poll released Thursday found Biden leading the field of Democratic presidential candidates among likely Iowa caucus goers, with 28% support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came next behind Biden with 19% and 11% support respectively. Bullock is in a five-way tie for tenth place, with 1% support.
In an unscientific, but Iowa State Fair staple "cast your kernel" poll conducted by WHO-TV, Biden led the field with 34% support, followed by Warren on 13%.
Other than the presidential politics that comes quadrennially to the fair, Iowa State’s own booth had a unique contribution to the state fair. Iowa State students and alumni pitched their ideas to an audience, who voted between two entrepreneurial students or alumni based on which pitch they preferred. The student or alumnus who won those duals moved on to the next round.
Britney Markhardt, junior in community and regional planning, pitched her mapping of a bus route and new sidewalks in Grinnell.
Markhardt said she started working on this in a GIS class in the fall 2018 semester.
“It started off with agricultural land use, as well as energy implementations, and I was kind of able to adapt into what I really like — which is multimodal transportation,” Markhardt said.
The butter cow in the agricultural building on the fairgrounds garnered a big crowd, with well over one hundred people queued to walk right next to the window of buttered bovine creation.
Eventually, the pace of the fair slowed down, as the long hot day wore down fairgoers.
The crowd size went down as the sun did, and the first day of the Iowa State Fair came to a close.