Des Moines Register Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair

 Other candidates who spoke: Jared Blankenship (R) of TX, Harry Braun (D) of AZ, and James McCall (I) of OH.
August 11-19, 2011--The Des Moines Register Soapbox presents an interesting challenge to presidential candidates.  Candidates have twenty minutes to address fairgoers.  The audience, sitting on hay bales ringing the stage and extending out to people standing on the concourse, can include, in addition to ordinary fairgoers, local supporters of the candidate, interest group representatives with carefully prepared questions, and, although it is unusual, a few hecklers.  Candidates took different approaches to the soapbox.  Most delivered a speech but did not take questions; several did engage give and take.  Former Gov. Mitt Romney was first to appear on the soapbox at this year's Fair, on August 11.  He delivered his speech uninterrupted, but in Q&A he encountered heckling on Social Security; the exchange and his response made national news.  August 12 was a busy date at the soapbox, as nine candidates and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke.  There as some threat of rain early on, but it cleared up.  Rep. Thad McCotter fielded eight questions.  Sen. Rick Santorum spoke without answering questions and went beyond the alloted twenty minutes.  Register political editor Carol Hunter noted, "We had to just about yank Santorum off the stage."  Rep. Michele Bachmann, in contrast, seemed to flee the stage, putting in a prefunctory appearance of about three minutes.  On August 15 newly minted candidate Gov. Rick Perry spoke.  All told a total of 13 candidates, including several longshots, spoke from the soapbox as did the DNC's Wasserman Schultz.  Former Gov. Jon Huntsman and possible candidate Sarah Palin visited the Fair but they did not speak from the soapbox.