Category Archives: Iowa Caucues

Eagleton in Iowa: Presidential Candidate 1st Day Promises Doom Voters to Disappointment

Since last August, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?. The Iowa Caucuses, which will kick off the actual voting in the presidential nominating campaign will be held February 1, at 7pm CST. The New Hampshire primary follows 8 days later. Historically these two events have been played an outsized role in the success and failure of candidates seeking the nomination

What follows is another in our occasional series of posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. Some of these posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold. Dave’s time in Iowa is coming to a close; he’ll return to Rutgers after February 2.


Candidate’s first-day promises? Doomed to disappoint

This post was first published January 13, 2016 in the Des Moines Register newspaper. In it, Dave writes about the claims candidates make about what they are going to do – apparently all by themselves – once they win.

The story goes that, as delegates were leaving the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government its members had designed. Franklin is reported to have said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

And so they had. The Constitution did not create a system where one ruler can govern by fiat. Nor did it create a pure democracy, where the masses decide everything. Instead, we got a republic designed to ensure the passions of the people at any given time do not override either good policy or minority rights. We got a government designed to work slowly and incrementally, responsive to the results of elections, but not so responsive as to be whipsawed any time “the people” changed their minds…

Read the rest of the column here.

 

A few weeks ago Dave also wrote a column on the nature of the Iowa caucuses as more broad based than most think, they are not creatures of the extremes as one candidate has claimed.

 

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Eagleton in Iowa: Electing Delegates through the Iowa Caucuses

Since August, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?.

What follows is another in our occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

Read below for Dave’s take on how Iowans tend to make up their minds late.

WARNING – EXTREMELY LONG POST AHEAD…

Delegates: They’re What It’s Really About

Since 1972 for the Democrats, and this year for the Republicans, the Iowa Precinct Caucuses have not really been primarily about voting for presidential candidates.

Well they have (and are) but the real goal is to win delegates (ultimately) to the respective national conventions. Precinct Caucuses do NOT elect delegates to the national convention, but they do elect them to the county conventions, and the process continues from there through district and state conventions, then to the national convention.

The stakes then, are not just the media bump that generally comes from exceeding expectations on caucus night, but also ultimately claiming a share of the delegates Iowa will elect to the national conventions. No one gets nominated to be their party’s standard-bearer without having 50%+1 of all the delegates to the national convention. To be sure, Iowa’s share of those delegates is quite small (see here [GOP | Democrats] for details on every state’s delegate counts) but at least for the Republicans, every delegate may well count given the fractured nature of the field.

Historically, there was no connection between the vote in Republican Precinct Caucuses and the national convention delegates won. It was strictly a beauty contest. This year, however, for the first time GOP convention delegates will be bound on the first ballot. What does this mean for the Iowa GOP? It would either mean electing individual delegates based on whom they support – something they have never done – or coming up with an alternative. The latter is what Iowa has done. Individual delegates will still be elected at large, starting at the Precinct Caucuses, without respect to which candidate they support. But if there is a contested nomination at the national convention, on the first round Iowa’s vote will be reported based on caucus night results. So if Rick Santorum gets 10% of the caucus vote, Iowa will announce that he gets 3 votes on the first ballot (10% of the state’s 30 GOP delegates.) This will be regardless of whether he is still in the race by then. If the nomination is uncontested, Iowa GOP will announce 100% for the nominee. This represents a major change for the GOP; for the first time the vote at the caucuses will correspond directly to the vote on the national convention floor. Now, if the nomination goes to a second ballot, those individual delegates are free to vote for whomever they want.

Turning to the Democrats, the story is completely different and has been since the modern process was put in place in 1972. Democrats have never announced the actual vote counts in their caucuses. Instead, because they publicly divide into groups supporting candidates, the election of county convention delegates is done within those groups, which means that supporters of Martin O’Malley (and any candidate, subject to threshold requirements) will elect members of their own group as county convention delegates.  Thus, while Democratic delegates are not bound in any subsequent convention, because they are almost always activist supporters of the candidate, they stick with her or him until told otherwise.

My own experience in 2008 illustrates this. At the time I was an active Democrat in Johnson County, IA, home of the University of Iowa where I was teaching at the time. (I should note that I left partisan politics when I moved to Rutgers to run the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.) The night before the 2004 caucus I announced my support for John Edwards. Obviously he did not win that year, but his strong showing beat expectations and ultimately he became John Kerry’s running mate. Fast forward to 2007, and I was on the Edwards bandwagon again, joining his statewide advisory team. When the January 3 caucus rolled around, I wanted to be sure I was elected as an Edwards delegate to the county convention from my precinct, Iowa City 8. Our precinct was allocated 6 delegates; for me to be elected the Edwards group would have to be viable and its members would have to elect me as a delegate. As I was chairing the caucus, I was not organizing the Edwards folks; others were doing that.

As it turned out, our group was not viable initially. Had that continued, I could not have been elected to the county convention as an Edwards delegate. Fortunately for me, some second-round politicking enabled us to viability, and we were awarded one of the six county convention delegates. First hurdle, done.

Next step, getting elected as a delegate. Fortunately, I was well known by Edwards folks in the precinct and was probably the one who wanted the position most. It was also the case that anyone not elected as a delegate could be designated an alternate, and if some elected Edwards delegates failed to show to the county convention, they would have the opportunity to be seated. My recollection is that no one else ended up running for the slot, so I had it.

The county convention came next, in March 2008. Before that, Edwards had suspended his campaign, so we Edwards delegates no longer had a candidate, although he had not yet endorsed anyone else. So our group of county convention delegates worked hard to maintain our viability as our own group at that convention. We managed to do so, which meant even if our candidate was no longer running, we elected Edwards delegates to the district and state conventions. We had enough delegates that I had no problem being one of those elected to move on.

By the time of the district conventions in April (each of Iowa’s congressional districts holds its own convention) things were still uncertain, with no instructions from Edwards about what to do. As we canvassed Edwards delegates from all of the counties in the 2nd District, it became clear it would be touch and go as to whether we could retain viability at the district. Some delegates were already committing to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama; others said they just might not bother showing up.

To keep a too long story from getting even longer, I won’t go into the details, but we managed in the end to maintain our viability at the 2nd District. The district convention was allocated 6 national convention delegates, and I really wanted to be one of them. However, Democrats have a strict gender quota rule: the state delegation must be evenly divided between men and women. To accomplish this, there is a procedure for determining the gender of each delegate slot won by a candidate at district and state conventions, and the election for delegates is separated by gender (everyone votes on all delegates for their preference group, but female and male delegates are elected in separate votes.)

So the question was, would the sole Edwards delegate from the 2nd District be male or female? The answer had been pre-determined some time before in Des Moines. Of the six delegates to be elected, the order was MFMFMF. The genders were allocated in order of the vote. Since Obama has the most delegates, his first delegate would be male. Clinton had the second most delegates; her first delegate would be female. Edwards, the only other viable candidate, came in third, so his first (and only delegate) would be male. This closed the door on any female Edwards supporter who wanted to be a national convention delegate from my district, and opened it for men.

My recollection at this point is a little hazy, but I know a large number of men submitted petitions to be the Edwards national convention delegate from our district; perhaps as many as 10 or more. I was one of them. I had to get a certain number of signatures and file with the convention before I knew if we were going to win any delegates; fortunately I had done so.

To win any delegate position for the Democrats, one must get 50% + 1 of the votes. Given the large field, it took hours to complete our process. Preference groups members cast their vote for delegate on a ballot paper that is numbered; this creates a record of the vote, since all votes in Democratic conventions are actually public. After each round, the ballots were taken to be counted, and eventually results announced. On the first (and several subsequent ballots) no one got 50%+1; the decision was made to drop candidates below a threshold for the next ballot. I seem to recall at least four rounds, and at least three hours going by. I survived each round; in the final one it was me and one other gentleman still standing.

To this day I am surprised I won that election. It ultimately gave me the opportunity to be one of Iowa’s Democratic National Convention delegates in an historic year. Ultimately, after some wooing, I committed to Obama in early June, some time after Edwards himself had endorsed Obama, and a couple weeks before the Iowa State Convention, where more national convention delegates would be elected. By then, there was no longer a viable Edwards group; but through some negotiations we still managed to get another one or two Edwards activists elected as Obama delegates, to join the 4 of us who had been elected at district conventions around the state. I believe we Edwards delegates all ended up supporting Obama on the floor at the national convention.

But the entire Iowa delegation did not. When it came time to announce our vote to the nation, we split 48 for Obama and 9 for Clinton. Note that this is not what actually happened in the precinct caucuses, where Obama won 38%, Edwards 30%, and Clinton 29%. While critically important in boosting Obama’s campaign, the Democratic precinct results did not in the end drive the national convention vote.

The lesson of this very long story is that for the Democrats the road to becoming a national convention delegate is a story of grassroots politics, starting with your preferred candidate at the precinct caucuses. If your candidate does not make viability in your precinct, you are done, unless you can convince folks in another preference group to elect you to the county convention. And the same is true through the process. It is complex, but it ensures a certain amount of opportunity for grassroots activists.

However, given the change in the GOP rules this year, it will be the Republicans – if their nomination is contested on the floor of the convention – who will better translate the actual Iowa Precinct Caucus vote into national convention delegates. Democrats will reduce their actual vote to delegates and will do this over and over throughout their convention process, so that by the time of the national convention, the actual floor vote (if the nomination is contested) will probably not reflect what happen in caucuses so many months before.

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Polling in Iowa; Does it Mean Much Yet?

For the last few months, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?.

What follows is another in our occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

Read below for Dave’s take on how Iowans tend to make up their minds late.

Iowa Caucus Goers are late deciders: Still Plenty of Room for Change

It’s just over 60 days to the Iowa Caucuses. Polling continues to show Donald Trump on top of the GOP pack here in the Hawkeye State. But, as I write this two recent polls show something changing under the Trump umbrella. Ben Carson, who had been running a close second to Trump appears to be falling; perhaps his time is over. Taking his place is Ted Cruz, who has doubled his support to just over 20%, while Carson has fallen below that mark. Trump himself remains in the 25%-30% range, where he has been stuck for months. Nothing seems to change for Trump in Iowa; all the action is in second and third.

Meanwhile the media remains obsessed about whether Trump’s support is real, or whether it will fade as voters get “serious”. Nate Silver just suggested the media needs to “stop freaking out” over Trump. He argues, as I have since at least August in Twitter comments and on the news app Sidewire, that Trump’s numbers remain stagnant at about a quarter of GOP voters. We’re seeing this in Iowa as well as nationally. In fact, a poll in August had Trump at 23% in Iowa; today he is around 25%.

The basis of Silvers sanguine attitude toward a Trump nomination is the claim that voters in places like Iowa do not make up their minds until quite late. Silver uses public exit polls from the 2008 and 2012 caucuses to show this.

Here I want to reinforce that point, using a completely different dataset. In 2008, Caroline Tolbert, Todd Donovan (my co-authors on Why Iowa?) and I administered an in-caucus survey of both parties. This is NOT an exit poll. Instead, with the cooperation of both parties, we placed a single survey instrument in EVERY Iowa precinct with instructions to the Caucus Chair to give it to the person whose birthday was closest to a random date on the packet. This allowed us to randomize the survey and also to potentially cover every precinct in Iowa. While we didn’t get them all back, our return rate was over 60% for the GOP and over 70% for the Democrats.

So what can we learn from the GOP and Democratic caucus goers of 2008, the last time both parties had wide open nominations?

First, YES, Iowans do not rush to make Caucus decisions. Across both parties in 2008, 54% of those filling out the survey told us they had made their candidate choice only in the final month, and 5% came in the door that night undecided. Just a quarter had decided at least three months before the caucuses.

And first time attendees were not any faster or slower making up their minds: 56% had done so in the final month, compared to 52% of repeat attendees, an insignificant difference. Not surprisingly though, those who had caucused before were a little more likely to be early deciders: 27% decided before October 2007, compared to 22% of first timers.

We also see no differences in gender – men and women were equally likely in 2008 to make late decisions.

Of course, some Iowa Caucus goers are party activists, but in 2008 a surprising number (nearly 60% in our survey) were not, something I would expect will be the case again this year. No one should be surprised that activists make up their minds earlier: across both parties nearly 60% of the most active has made a decision more than a month before, as had over half of those who called themselves “somewhat active” in their party. In contrast only slightly more than one-third of less active voters made an early decision.

While the above combines both parties, we can dig further into our data and look for differences between Republicans and Democrats. What we find is that in 2007-08, GOP voters were slower to decide. While 47% of Democrats with a preference entering the caucuses, waited until the last month to decide this rises to 62% of GOP voters that year. Nearly 30% of Democrats had decided before October, but only 19% of Republicans had settled on a choice that early.

A group of particular importance to GOP candidates is Evangelical Christians. But guess what? Once again we see no real differences in decision time. Evangelicals were just as likely to make a late decision as any other Iowa Caucus goer in 2008.

What’s the takeaway from this deeper dive into Iowa Caucus goers’ decision timing? Simply, there is a lot of room for candidates to play in the final weeks before Iowans cast their First in the Nation votes. The lesson for 2016 may be exactly what Silver and others are saying. There remains fluidity, and the inevitability of Donald Trump in Iowa (or anywhere else) is not at all certain. If the past holds any indicators for today, at two months ahead of the caucuses a very large share of the vote is still in play, no matter what people tell pollsters today. And in particular, given that GOP voters appear to make later decisions even in 2008 when both parties had large fields, there is every reason to think we have a lot more ups and downs to watch before this whole thing is over. Some people are committed, but most are still shopping, even as their choice set gets smaller and the shopping days fly by.

Final note: The data we collected with our 2008 in-caucus, along with the survey instruments, are available for anyone to examine at www.whyiowa.org.

 

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Eagleton in Iowa: Is 2016 the Last 1st in the Nation Iowa Caucus?

For the last two months, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?.

What follows is another in our occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

Today’s post is in response to what has become a regular game: threatening the position of Iowa and New Hampshire as the first in the nation states. Some people think Iowa is at risk.  Read below to see why Dave’s not so sure that’s the case.

RNC Chair Suggests Iowa and New Hampshire Might not be First Next Time

And so it begins. The quadrennial effort to change the status quo where Iowa leads the presidential nomination process with the caucuses, followed by New Hampshire’s primary, is underway. And like all efforts before it, this one seems unlikely to succeed.

DSC08661Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus recently commented that as the planning begins for 2020, the early “carve-out” states are not sacred cows, as he put it. Instead, Priebus seems to suggest that a more regional or even national approach might be considered.

Since 1976, the Iowa Republican and Democratic parties have zealously guarded their leadoff slot, even to the extent of writing it into state law, which requires that Iowa be the first event. New Hampshire also requires that it be first, but since Iowa does not hold a primary, that state has been content to be the first primary state. Every four years someone, or a number of someones, threatens the status of these two states; through all of it Iowa and New Hampshire’s positions have been maintained. And for good reason.

As my colleagues and I describe in Why Iowa?, a regional or national primary is no panacea and would probably bring a different set of problems and its own unintended consequences. Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as the more recent carve-out states of South Carolina and, to a lesser extent, Nevada, require a kind of retail politics that we think makes candidates better. Instead of just sound-bites, airport tarmac speeches, and massive TV ad campaigns, candidates today must meet actual voters, answer questions, and explain themselves. In a regional, and even more so in a national, primary, candidates would almost never get out of the campaign bubble and never be forced to respond to voters. And trust me, responding to the media does not take the place of talking to voters. Grassroots campaigns allows voters to better check candidate quality than a TV based campaign, where there is no direct feedback loop from meeting voters in small groups. One of the greatest strengths of Iowa and New Hampshire is that it is possible for candidates to meet and shake the hands of a large percentage of those who will actually be supporting them at the polls. Voters learn from this and candidates do, too.

And to solve what problem? That these early states are somehow too influential? Of course they matter, because they go first. And agreed, a regional or national approach would limit their influence, but it would also limit the influence of all voters as candidates focus on media, as well as bias the process toward the very large, vote-rich states, leaving most states out in the cold. Candidates who might have something to offer, but haven’t spent years building up superpacs and huge war chests, would have less than no opportunity to be heard in an ad-driven large-scale campaign. We would trade one set of concerns for another, and for an untested new system with few obvious benefits.

IMG_1100There is a place for large-scale campaigns, of course, and we do get something akin to them during so-called “Super Tuesdays,” when a number of states bunch up on a particular primary date. The ability of candidates to personally campaign in front of a large share of the voters is limited, but the TV ads and media campaigns are not.

At the same time, there may be some value to limiting the lengthy sequential nature of the process. In Why Iowa? we proposed a hybrid – what we call a “caucus window/national primary” system. The process would start with a caucus window running for several weeks, during which no primaries would be held, but any small state that wanted to hold a caucus could. These caucuses would most likely get media attention as the first tests of candidate organizing ability and would presumably maintain the grassroots politics benefits of the current system. The results would be informative to voters; in essence the caucuses would be an initial vetting of the candidates.

Once that window closes, all states would hold simultaneous primaries – a national primary – at which delegates would be elected. Many details (such as delegate allocation and what to do if no one wins a majority) would need to be worked out, but the basic idea (expanded on in more detail in Why Iowa?) would preserve the benefits of the grassroots caucus process while allowing more voters in more states to have a real say in what happens.

But what about the chances of things actually changing, either in the direction we suggest or along the lines of the RNC Chairman’s musings? I would suggest the odds are Slim to None, and Slim has left the room (as we used to say back home). The simple reason is that the national parties actually have relatively little direct control over when primaries and caucuses are held. Sure, there are national rules, and supposedly sanctions can be applied, but the evidence so far is that rules and sanctions have very limited effects. But it is state parties – and in many cases state legislatures – that set the actual dates, and they do so based on their own calculations.

Second, and maybe more importantly, one Bill Gardner pretty much outweighs everyone else combined. Gardner is New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, and under state law he has the absolute power to set the date of the NH primary. He has made it clear, year after year, that NH will hold the first primary whenever it has to be held. And Iowa, which has a similar state law requiring the caucuses to be the first non-primary event, has not been shy to move its date either. Thus in 2008 and again in 2012, the Iowa caucuses were on January 3.

It seems likely that no matter what rules the RNC (and presumably the Democrats as well) establish about the order of nominating events, dislodging Iowa and New Hampshire will take more than the musings of the RNC Chair or even votes of the entire Republican National Committee. Of course, neither state cares all that much what comes after them; as long as the rules allow a carve-out for them, they will be happy. And if the rules don’t, they will probably violate the rules and go first anyway.

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Eagleton in Iowa

For the last two months, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?. Today we will start an occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

This first post talks about the experience of watching 20 candidates for president speak at the Iowa State Fair in August, at the Des Moines Register Soapbox.

 

An Exercise in Old Fashioned Democracy

By David Redlawsk, Director, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling

There is something wonderfully old fashioned about the Iowa State Fair. I’m not talking about the 4H projects, or the pie-judging, or the carnival midway. I’m talking about the Des Moines Register soapbox. In this day of carefully crafted media campaigns and even more carefully developed soundbites, the fact that candidates can still stand up on a stage (wish it were a real soapbox, but where are you going to find one of those these days?) and talk to real people in a less than overly controlled environment says something good about why we start the nomination process in small states. The Register does a real service to Iowa and the country by sponsoring the Soapbox.DSC08535

People waited as long as a hour and a half in the hot sun to see the candidates (or, on one day, in the rain). While candidates who come to the Fair are all but forced to do stupid things for the media (like eating some kind of food on a stick) they are also forced to pay attention to the questions voters ask. Those not at the Soapbox can read about it, watch it online or TV, and get exposed to their options, and many do. Even fairgoers not at the soapbox have some sense of the role Iowa plays in this process.

IMG_0460I suppose it is pretty clear I am a fanboy for the Soapbox. After watching 19 presidential candidates (only Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Rand Paul, and Jim Gilmore didn’t speak at the Soapbox, while Gilmore and Paul were the only ones not to come to the fair), I can say with authority that I am exhausted. And, also, that Iowans are privileged.

Of course, they already know this, and those in other states who pay attention to politics know this too. Since it is first in the nation in the nomination contest, Iowa has an outsized influence on the choices facing voters nationally. As my coauthors and I detailed in our book Why Iowa?, the caucuses engage Iowans, candidates, and the media in a kind of dance as Iowans try out one candidate after another, and the media tries to read the dynamics of an event that won’t occur for months.

And of course, it’s because of the potential for media attention that these candidates come here. For some the potential is realized, either through their own performance (Carly Fiorina got a lot of buzz at least from the crowd with her non-speech, Q&A-only performance, and Ben Carson seemed much better in real life than he ever does on TV) or someone else’s (hecklers who took on Scott Walker who gave as good as he got, and animal rights activists who crashed Chris Christie’s stage and let him get off a nice zinger.) For some, like former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, who isn’t even on the media’s list of candidates, there may have been no national media, but there was the Register live streaming the event.

Of course, not everyone takes advantage, for whatever reason: Trump and Clinton were both at the Fair but ignored the Soapbox, somewhat too their detriment (at least according to chatter amongst Iowans waiting to hear other candidates.) But they still came to the Fair. Only about half of this year’s crowd took questions at all, but those that did found that Iowans ask pretty good ones. They also found that various interest groups were also well-represented.

Obviously, candidates hold other events where they meet and talk to voters all over Iowa. But the Fair is the one place where they are all (literally) on the same level playing field, if they choose to come. The audience is not hand-picked, and they are not afraid to express themselves. As for the candidates, my sense is that many of them may resent having to do this, in some sense, but some really like the crowd, really like pressing the flesh (Martin O’Malley comes to mind, but Jim Webb and Bobby Jindal also worked the Soapbox crowd before their speeches). Other candidates seem less comfortable (Jeb Bush seemed a bit uneasy to me) but understand they have to present themselves this way to voters who will really matter come February 1.

DSC08552
The Des Moines Register Soapbox, which began in 2003, has become a can’t-miss institution for most presidential candidates, and in non-presidential years for candidates for governor and Congress as well (and non-candidates as well, like Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.) The rules are really simple – as Register Editor Carol Hunter says, candidates get a microphone and 20 minutes to use as they wish. This is the best kind of throwback to the good old days. Fair goers can see the candidates up close, listen to their stump speech, maybe ask questions, and attempt to take measure of the men and women who want to lead this country.

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