How Does The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox Work?

During the 2019 Iowa State Fair, The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox attracted every 2020 Presidential Candidate. Because The Justin Brady Show was live at the Iowa State Fair, I inteviewed the person who arranged and organized the entire effort, Brian Smith of the Des Moines Register.

Behind the scenes of the Political Soapbox.

A lot of planning goes into the Political Soapbox event, but the way in which the team schedules candidates is fairly straightforward. They communicate to the candidate’s teams the schedule is first come first serve. If a team reaches out first for the time slot their choosing, they get it. Period. Some candidates reach out late and, of course, don’t get their pick.

Political Soapbox
Gage Skidmore

Outside of the existing commitments and travel plans, candidates have in place, picking the right time to present at the Political Soapbox is key. Candidates have various strategies to target certain voting blocks. If a candidate is more focused on young voters, for example, they’d be more likely to choose a later time or a weekend when younger voters aren’t working. Even after all the immense planning on the campaign side and Soapbox side however, things don’t always go as planned.

When candidates (almost) miss their times.

Smith explained Rep. Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden were among those he thought would completely miss their times. If that were to happen, there is no rescheduling.

Booker was running extremely late explained Smith, but somehow he was able to bob, weave and spin-move his way to the podium on time. With a slight chuckle, Smith wondered if his agility and speed were due to his previous football experience. Biden however, was late because of his sweet tooth.

Former Vice President Joe Biden ended up being late for his Political Soapbox talk because he was stuck at the Wonder Bar line. Apparently he needed his ice cream. He did eventually make it, but his time was shorter due to his tardiness. It didn’t tarnish his reputation however, as he led the Iowa State Fair “Cast Your Kernel.”

Do Candidates Get Special Treatment?

Before their Political Soapbox talk, you might think candidates get special green room treatment, and who knows maybe a great snack bar? But you’d be wrong. Smith explained candidates don’t get a nice green room and they don’t get special treatment. They experience the Iowa State Fair just like any normal Iowa State Fair attendee. Although the Des Moines Register does give them a bottle of water. 

Next year’s Political Soapbox is right before the 2020 Presidential Election, so there’s no doubt the Democrat nominee for President and likely The President himself will be in attendance. 

(6-15-20 UPDATE: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Political Soapbox has been canceled.)

Listen to the Political Soapbox Interview


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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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