Post Reports

48 hours at the Iowa State Fair

Holly Bailey and Kevin Uhrmacher outline 2020 takeaways from the Iowa State Fair. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) explains his case to Martine Powers. And Matt Collette introduces us to the fair’s nonpolitical competitors.
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Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.

In this episode

How politicians fare at the fair
The Iowa State Fair comes six months before a milestone in the Democratic presidential nomination. Iowa is the first state to caucus in the 2020 presidential contest, so candidates spend a lot of time campaigning there, hoping for a boost in later races by doing well in Iowa.

One way to do that is by wooing some of the million-plus people who attend the fair, says political reporter Holly Bailey. There, candidates can snap up support as they stare down stricter qualifications for upcoming debates.

At the fair, graphics editor Kevin Uhrmacher found Iowans overwhelmed by the size of the 2020 field, with many questioning who some of the candidates even are. He asked fairgoers to circle candidates they could recognize on a sheet. “Three of them, no one really knew,” he says.

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Campaigning while you’re polling at zero percent
The fair drew candidates such as Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren early in its run. The final weekend drew just one: Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. The moderate Democratic presidential hopeful has yet to qualify for a primary debate and has barely registered in the polls. Based on his fundraising haul, he’s unlikely to be in the third debate in September.

Host Martine Powers asked Moulton what his strategy will look like going forward. 

“At the end of the day, if the Democratic Party chooses to go the way of the Republican Party and pick a nominee based on social media metrics or based on who can say the most outrageous things, then I don’t want to win on those metrics,” Moulton says. 

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How to win it all
The Iowa State Fair is not all about politics, of course, but much of it is still a competition, as senior producer Matt Collette can attest. 

He sought out the nonpolitical competitors at the fair — blue-ribbon-winning produce, chili cook-off champions and young comedians who wowed the crowds — to figure out what it takes to be a winner, and what the 2020 candidates might learn from these competitive Iowans. 

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About Post Reports

Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.