There are, of course, many reasons to attend the Iowa State Fair.
As they say on the billboards: “Nothing Compares.”
The Canned Food Sculpture is striking.
Reserved seats are sold out for Saturday’s Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy show on the grandstand, but there is still standing-room-only space to be had for $40 a pop.
The deep-fried butter on a stick is, by most accounts, scrumptious.
And, if you are campaigning for, say, vice president of the United States, you could talk farm policy at the same place where Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bob Dole, Joe Biden and everyone who has ever entertained the notion of winning an election in this proud agricultural state has done.
Or, if you’re Paul Ryan, you could, um, well, what was Paul Ryan doing at the Iowa State Fair?
No one was all that surprised when the exercise-obsessed House Budget Committee chairman and newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate avoided the butter on a stick.
Asked about this summer’s epic drought, which has become a serious issue for farmers in more than 1,500 countries across thirty states—including Iowa—Ryan said: “We’ll get into all those policy things later. Right now I just want to enjoy the fair.”
Isn’t that like walking through the Jeep plant in Toledo and saying: “No policy today, boys, I want to enjoy the smells of the paint room.”
No. Just classic Washington-insider avoidance of an important issue.
And Iowans noticed.
Fair-goer Bill Thomas, who hails from Indianola, explains, “There’s a lot of farmers here.”
Why wouldn’t Ryan, whose district in southern Wisconsin includes many farms (including my brother-in-law’s spread), be up for some talk about droughts, crop insurance and country-of-origin labeling?
Because Ryan is not really the policy wonk his press clips suggest. The congressman, who has spent his entire adult life in DC, is one of those classic inside-the-Beltway careerists who swoops into Midwestern states like Iowa with talking points rather than any sense of where he is going or who he is talking with.
Ryan gave a brief stump speech at the fair that focused on jobs issues in a state where the unemployment rate is three points below the national number. But he wouldn’t answer questions about the drought and the efforts of House Republicans to stall the federal Farm Bill.
So why won’t Ryan talk farm issues in farm states?
Because doing so would turn farm states against the Romney-Ryan ticket—and potentially against Republican candidates for the House and Senate.