political-theater

The Iowa State Fair: Our hits, misses and lessons learned
Political Theater, Episode 88

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, says a quick hello to her son, Gunnar, as he works at a corn dog booth at the Iowa State Fair on Monday August 12, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

DES MOINES, Iowa — For all its quaintness and fun, the Iowa State Fair does a pretty good job of approximating politics at the national level, be it questions about electability and charisma or trade and agricultural policy.

“The debate within the party that is happening right now, is happening right in front of me at the Iowa State Fair between these two people,” CQ Roll Call senior politics writer Bridget Bowman says, recounting a conversation between a couple after hearing South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox on Aug. 13. The couple, both of whom told Bridget they were impressed with Buttigieg, were torn between what was more important for a Democratic candidate: offering bold ideas or being more likely to beat President Donald Trump.

The Iowa State Fair: Why do you have to come here to be president?
Political Theater, Episode 87

Iowa State Fair mascots walk by the Administration Building at the Iowa State Fair on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Iowa plays a big role in presidential politics because of its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Even by that standard, though, the Hawkeye State this time feels busier, more significant.

There are more than 20 Democrats running for president, and unlike in previous years, no one is writing the state off. There are also several competitive congressional races here. That means a very busy Iowa State Fair, because all these politicians want to meet voters, make their case at The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, flip pork chops at the pork tent and eat.

The Iowa State Fair: A day in the deep-fried life
Political Theater, Episode 86

People wait in the rain Sunday to hear Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor, speak at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Yes, there are a lot of politicians who attend the Iowa State Fair to court voters. But there is so much else to this unique event, from the almost 70 fried foods on a stick, to giant slides, sea lions, butter cows and butter Big Birds; even arm-wrestling. A day in the life of the Iowa State Fair with Political Theater. 

‘Embrace it and take it all in’: Former Rep. David Young on the Iowa State Fair

Former Rep. David Young and Sen. Michael Bennet work the grill at the Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on August 11, 2019 (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call).

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Ann Richards goes ‘backwards and in high heels’ at Arena Stage
One-woman show about former Texas governor features Jayne Atkinson of ‘House of Cards’ fame

Jayne Atkinson as Ann Richards in “Ann,” running through Aug. 11 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. (Courtesy Margo Shulman/Arena Stage)

A one-woman show now playing at Arena Stage serves as a reminder of when a Democrat could win statewide in Texas.

“Ann” is a retelling of the life and times of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, whose keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention as a relatively unknown state treasurer propelled her into the spotlight. Alternating between barbed one-liners and folksy charm, she became just the second woman — and the last Democrat to date — to hold the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State.

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