DES MOINES, Iowa
Louisiana may be known for its many festivals, but here in Iowa, it’s all about the State Fair.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is set to take the Iowa State Fair soapbox stage Saturday, with hopes of wooing a crowd of Iowa caucusgoers on the fair’s final Saturday.
Jindal, 44, is one of the last presidential candidates to take the all-important fair stage this week, and a big showing at the fair could give Jindal an opportunity to set himself apart from the crowded pack aiming for the GOP nomination.
The fair has played host to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; neurosurgeon Ben Carson, of Maryland; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida; and other Republican heavyweights in recent days.
For the uninitiated: The Iowa State Fair is a lot like a regular fair — but on steroids.
The fairground stretches on for what seems like miles: bright lights flashing, children running about and vendors handing out swag touting Iowa’s corn and pork industries, among others.
And politics is always a big feature at one of the biggest events in the state that hosts the nation’s first presidential primary caucuses.
Next year’s Iowa caucuses start Feb. 1. Jindal has spent a lot of time in Iowa since formally launching his campaign for president June 24 and is betting that a surprise showing here could catapult his campaign. He’s scheduled to continue on the Iowa campaign trail with more town hall meetings next week, following a two-day trip that took him to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Ohio earlier this week.
Lagging in polls on the crowded Republican presidential slate, Jindal has made Iowa central to his strategy toward boosting his standing in the GOP contest.
At the fair, attendees mingle on the grounds, sipping from oversized cups of lemonade — or oversized beers, in many cases — and munching on various foods served on wooden skewers and acquired from bright, flashing trailers.
On Thursday, the scent of fried foods — mixed with a faint whiff of livestock on display — hung in the air, despite a non-Louisiana cool August breeze.
The fair boasts some 70 foods served on sticks — everything from fried peanut butter sandwich on a stick to chocolate-covered deep-fried cheesecake on a stick.
Jindal has made no secret of his love of junk food — going so far to say in a recent interview that his first official meal as president would be nachos, if he could pick anything. He gave The Advocate several recommendations for fair food, too.
“You can eat deep-fried anything,” he said in Iowa earlier this week, specifically giving a shoutout to deep-fried butter on a stick as a must-try.
He also plugged the many bacon-wrapped goodies you can find at the fair — from the Ultimate Bacon Brisket Bomb, which won top honors in the fair food contest this year, to a double-bacon corn dog.
But he said he was hoping to try a pork chop on a stick this go-around.
Jindal’s speech Saturday will immediately follow New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another Republican running for president, and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks earlier in the morning.
Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was the only presidential candidate to speak at the fair on Friday. He planned a “religious freedom” rally attended by thousands in downtown Des Moines later that evening.
In recent days — both in Iowa and on other stops outside Louisiana — Jindal has made a point to take specific aim at Walker, a candidate who once led the polls in Iowa but has since begun lagging behind real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump.
That likely will come up again in his fair speech Saturday. Candidates are given 20 minutes to speak in an area on the main concourse.
At an event in Ohio on Thursday, Jindal took aim at many of his GOP rivals, attempting to set himself apart from the pack.
By many accounts from the event, Jindal stole the show at the Americans for Prosperity-hosted Defending the American Dream Summit.
Walker’s campaign released an Affordable Care Act alternative plan earlier this week, and Jindal, who released his own health care proposal last year, quickly took issue with it. Both Jindal and Walker have been looking to Iowa to boost their chances of winning the GOP’s nomination for president next year.
“(Walker’s) plan would likely cost over $1 trillion, and he does not indicate how he would pay for it, which of course is the Washington way,” Jindal told the summit crowd.
He took a more veiled aim at other GOP hopefuls.
“When did we decide to quit fighting for our conservative ideals? When did we throw in the towel? I didn’t get the memo on that. Conservative ideals haven’t died out here in America … but they are dead in Washington,” he said.