CEDAR RAPIDS | Politically active Iowans like to say they don’t make up their mind which presidential candidate to support until they’ve met them all.
More than once.
Hang out at the Iowa State Fair, which continues through Aug. 23, and there’s a good chance you’ll meet at least some of the 2016 White House hopefuls. A prime spot for potential presidential sighting is at the soapbox at the Grand Avenue Concourse outside the Administration Building.
At the state fair, the soapbox is metaphorical. There is neither soap nor a box. The term stems from the days when speakers would elevate themselves by standing on a wooden crate, often a soapbox, to be better heard.
There is a soapbox stage, sometimes ringed with hay or straw bales for the audience to sit on.
The soapbox has been a state fair staple since launched by the Des Moines Register in 2002. State and federal candidates have spoken there, including 2008 and 2012 GOP precinct caucus winners former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, respectively.
They’ll be back this year along with at least 11 other GOP candidates and all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls except Hillary Clinton, who spoke on the soapbox stage in 2007.
So far, George W. Bush is the only president to speak on the soapbox back in 2002, the first year of what has become a traditional stop on the Iowa campaign trail.
It’s not always a friendly stop as GOP candidate Mitt Romney learned the hard way in 2011 when members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement heckled him. That was when Romney uttered a phrase that dogged throughout his unsuccessful 2012 challenge of President Barack Obama: “Corporations are people, my friend.”
Iowa CCI will be back, a spokesman said, with a new set of “bird-dogging” questions on topics including the minimum wage, climate change, racial justice and expanding Social Security.
So far this year, Huckabee and Democrats former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Gov. Martin O'Malley have spoken from the soapbox stage.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is scheduled to speak at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 14.
If you’re not at the fair, the soapbox speeches will be broadcast live on C-SPAN as part of its “Road to the White House 2016 coverage. For detail, visit. www.c-span.org.
Here’s the schedule for the soapbox stage:
Aug. 15: 11 a.m., former Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; 11:30 a.m., former Democratic Rhode Island senator and governor Lincoln Chaffee; 2 p.m., Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Aug. 16: 4 p.m., retired neurosurgeon Republican Ben Carson; 4:30 p.m., former GOP New York Gov. George Pataki.
Aug. 17: 10 a.m., Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Noon, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Republican Carly Fiorina; 3 p.m., GOP South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Aug. 18: 10:30 a.m., GOP Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; 4 p.m., Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Aug. 19: 10 a.m., former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Aug. 21: 1:30 p.m., Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Aug. 22: 10 a.m., Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; 11 a.m., GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Noon, GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; and 2 p.m., former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Republican Mark Everson.