During his appearance at the political soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, former Vice President Mike Pence was not questioned by Governor Kim Reynolds about Donald J. Trump’s indictments, which is a topic he often faces on the campaign trail. One voter even shouted a question about whether his life had changed since Tucker Carlson allegedly ruined his career. Instead, Governor Reynolds took a different approach and asked Pence what she called the “fast three”: his funniest moment on the trail, his favorite food at the fair, and his favorite walkout song.
The Des Moines Register’s soapbox is a longstanding tradition at the Iowa State Fair, where candidates have 20 minutes to make their pitch to a discerning crowd of voters who appreciate the personal connection that comes with retail politicking. Presidential hopefuls aim to avoid awkward moments and unexpected questions from the audience. However, Governor Reynolds’s new “fair-side” chats have provided a safe space for the 2024 Republican field, with softball questions tailored to their platforms, allowing them to elaborate on their proposed policies with few follow-up questions.
Governor Reynolds has also found a way to support the candidates while highlighting her own achievements. She criticizes the Biden administration while promoting her legislative successes in Iowa during the period between their responses. This friendly atmosphere may be why Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina have chosen to skip the soapbox altogether and instead engage in conversations with Governor Reynolds on different dates.
So far, Governor Reynolds’s questions have focused on the candidates’ accomplishments in their respective offices, how they plan to counter what she perceives as “ridiculous” economic policies from the Biden administration, and their strategies to secure the nomination. However, she has also used these chats to humanize the contenders. She laughed off accidentally introducing Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota as the governor of North Carolina and drew a connection between “Miami nice” and “Iowa nice” with Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez. With Mr. Pence, she even joked about her husband’s resemblance to the former vice president, to which Pence playfully responded by agreeing with her compliment.
Overall, Governor Reynolds’s fair-side chats have provided a favorable environment for Republican candidates, allowing them to showcase their policies without too much scrutiny. Additionally, it has offered an opportunity for Governor Reynolds to assert her own voice and accomplishments while engaging in friendly banter with the contenders.