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Clinton And Trump Skip The Soapbox At The Iowa State Fair

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Corndogs, amusement rides and thousands of people, several of whom happen to be running for president, that about sums up a big day at the Iowa State Fair yesterday. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump drew the biggest crowds. But they were not alone, as NPR's Sarah McCammon reports.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Flanked by a large security detail and a throng of reporters, Hillary Clinton made her way through the fairgrounds. The mob of people surrounding the former secretary of state didn't stop fans like Shannon Roth from trying to snap a picture with her.

SHANNON ROTH: Can I grab a picture with you?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Sure.

ROTH: I'm a government teacher, so this will give me great street cred.

MCCAMMON: Joining Clinton was former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who is endorsing her. He led her to the famous Butter Cow sculpture. She also sampled an Iowa pork chop on a stick.

CLINTON: I highly recommend.

MCCAMMON: Clinton did not appear at The Des Moines Register Soapbox, a tradition where voters often question candidates directly. That can cause problems, as Mitt Romney found out during his campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITT ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on - of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes?

(LAUGHTER, JEERING)

MCCAMMON: That's what can happen at the soapbox. And it may be why Clinton stayed away. That didn't help her image with people like Jarrett Walsh of North Liberty, Iowa. He leans Republican but hasn't made up his mind. He says the soapbox would have been a good place to demonstrate she can be transparent with voters.

JARRETT WALSH: It's obviously something that's classic Iowa, classic state fair. And if she wants to show herself as a person of the people, that's the forum to do it.

MCCAMMON: Also snubbing the soapbox was Donald Trump. His helicopter, emblazoned with his name in bold lettering, flew over during Clinton's visit.

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Yelling) That's my king, D. Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: (Chanting) Trump, Trump, Trump.

MCCAMMON: Trump landed near the fairgrounds and offered rides to children before arriving to a wild reception by a crowd of supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: (Chanting) Save our country. Save our country.

MCCAMMON: Trump hasn't been friendly with The Des Moines Register since the newspaper, which sponsors the soapbox, published an editorial last month headlined "Trump Should Pull The Plug On His Bloviating Sideshow." Yesterday, Trump dismissed the paper as not relevant to him. Trump also missed the Butter Cow. A campaign spokesman says he had planned to go but couldn't make it inside because of the crowd waiting for him. Among the disappointed was Jayne Mooney, an engineer from Bettendorf, Iowa.

JAYNE MOONEY: I know it was kind of hard 'cause it was so packed in here. But people would've made room for him.

MCCAMMON: And her 11-year-old son, Patrick.

PATRICK: He probably lost a lot of people's votes by not showing up here.

MCCAMMON: Back at the soapbox, a few candidates did show up - among them, Senator Bernie Sanders. He took the stage around the time Trump's helicopter was making its rounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, there's Donald Trump. What can we do? You know, I apologize. We left the helicopter at home. It's in the garage, forgot bring it.

MCCAMMON: Bringing their campaigns to the fair today, but likely no helicopters, are Dr. Ben Carson and former New York Governor George Pataki. They're expected at the soapbox this afternoon. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.