The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Longshot candidates take the stage on day two of Iowa State Fair

On the second day of the Iowa State Fair, three candidates took the stage at the Des Moines Register’s political soapbox to speak with voters and drum up support for their campaigns.
Carly Schrum
2024 presidential candidate Larry Elder places his hand on his chest during Ashley Hinson’s BBQ Bash at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Sunday, August 6, 2023.

Rain or shine, more presidential candidates made their way to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Friday as they make their last few campaign stops ahead of the first Republican debate on Aug. 22.

A total of four candidates, all Republican, visited the fair: Former Vice President Mike Pence, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, and California talk-show host Larry Elder

This was Pence’s second day at the fair, having attended the opening day to be at the Des Moines Register’s “Political Soapbox.” On Friday, Pence visited the fair to participate in the “Fair-Side Chat,” a series of conversations hosted by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds featuring several Republican candidates. 

Suarez also participated in a “Fair-Side Chat” with Reynolds, before taking to the Register’s stage located on the Grand Concourse as the first speaker for the political soapbox. All candidates at the soapbox were given 20 minutes to speak, with no rules on what they say or do during that time.

In Suarez’s case, he used the full 20 minutes to appeal to voters as he aims to book a place at the debate stage later this month. He was in the news recently for attempting to sway voters by promising to give those who donate $1 a $20 gift card.

He also highlighted his work as Miami’s mayor, pointing to decreased homicide rates while contrasting that to the boom in the economy his city has seen recently.

Suarez also said he has a unique advantage over his opponents in his ability to attract both young and Latino voters to the Republican Party, calling it a must considering the close margins of the past two elections.

Concluding his speech with calls for campaign support, Suarez sang a different tune in a press conference directly afterward where he admitted that if he didn’t receive enough support to make the first debate, he would likely end his campaign.

“If you can’t meet the minimum thresholds, you shouldn’t be trying to take time and volume away from people that do,” Suarez said.

When asked directly if he would end his campaign if he didn’t make the debate stage, Suarez said he felt confident he could still meet the minimum requirements in the coming days.

RELATED: Republican candidates focus on variety of issues including Biden, education at Lincoln Dinner

The next speaker at the soapbox was Johnson, who recently announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he had successfully met the requirement of 40,000 donors to qualify for the debate stage.

In his speech, Johnson recited points that have become mainstays of his campaign, including his self-titled “two-cent plan to save America,” and his belief that the U.S. could save millions up to billions of dollars by cutting agencies and departments in the federal government.

He also talked about the increase in land ownership by foreign entities such as China, similar to what Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst spoke about earlier this summer.

Addressing reporters in a press conference following his soapbox speech, Johnson admitted that although he and others may be longshots, it was important to remember that frontrunner Donald Trump had problems.

“[Trump] does have … a few other issues. But you notice every time he has an indictment, his poll numbers go up. We have to say that the bottom line is, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Johnson said. “I cannot see the future, but I do believe that this debate will tell people an awful lot about what’s going on in this country.”

The last candidate to take the stage Friday was Elder, who, like Johnson, mainly recited a speech similar to those he’s given at past multi-candidate events. His speech covered his family life, specifically the challenges his father faced in a Jim Crow South before the start of World War II.

He also spoke about his brothers, both of whom served in the military before they died, and noted that he had never served himself. This lack of military service, he said, was what had encouraged him to run for president so he too could serve his country.

“I’ve never felt good about that. The older I get, the worse I feel. This is my chance to give back to my country,” Elder said.

Elder also touched on the “epidemic of fatherlessness,” an issue that he has campaigned heavily on, alongside his belief that urban schooling has failed minority populations, with research showing that it has led to an increase in adolescent crime.

But this was secondary to his calls for support, telling fair attendees on Thursday that he only had 20,000 donors, although he said today he only required an additional 15,000. Despite this hurdle, he insisted to a group of reporters at a press conference after his speech that if nothing else, his goal was to get people talking about the issues he was campaigning on.

“If I can get people talking about stuff in those terms, I have done my job,” Elder said. “That’s why I’m doing this.” 

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About the Contributors
Alejandro Rojas
Alejandro Rojas, News Editor
Alejandro Rojas is The Daily Iowan's news editor. He previously worked as a news reporter covering Johnson County and was the summer executive editor in 2023. He is a senior, double majoring in journalism and political science.
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.