This article appeared in the August 09, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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State fair politics: Speak softly and carry a big corn dog

Brian Snyder/Reuters
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate entrepreneur Andrew Yang arrives at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 9, 2019. Politicians have been buzzing around state fairs for decades.
Laurent Belsie
Senior Economics Writer

Welcome to your Monitor Daily. Today’s offerings explore the effects of body cameras on policing, apparent contradictions of U.S. talks with the Taliban, the historic roots of the latest tiff between South Korea and Japan, the sense of isolation felt by many conservatives in Canada’s midwest, and the evolving portrayal of motherhood on screen.

But first, there is some primordial link between politicians and corn dogs. Maybe they want to be seen eating the food of the people. Maybe they’re hungry. 

If I had to guess where this candidate-corn dog link was first made, I’d pick a state fair. Politicians have been buzzing around them for decades. In 1901 then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Minnesota State Fair and famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” (Was he foreshadowing the ultimate corn dog?) 

The actual corn dog came along a few decades later, with vendors at the Minnesota and Texas state fairs both claiming to have popularized it. That brings us to the Iowa State Fair, which opened Thursday. 

Just as many Democrats are running for president, many foods are vying to topple the corn dog. New entrees in Iowa include dill pickle popcorn and deep-fried deviled eggs. Neither seem to have much chance against the shrimp corn dog, which the fair lists as a healthy food choice.

With the important Iowa caucuses just six months away, more than 20 presidential hopefuls are scheduled to speak at the fair. Who’ll stand out? The most telling survey may come from the Des Moines Register, which is asking people to weigh in on which candidate reminds them of a fair food, like funnel cake (“tastes great, but no real substance”).

No word yet on who most resembles a corn dog, which the newspaper describes as “still popular despite flashier options.”

This article appeared in the August 09, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/09 edition
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