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

Gage Skidmore

This year, The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox attracted every 2020 Presidential Candidate and live at the Iowa State Fair and 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.

A lot of planning go into the Political Soapbox event, but the way in which they schedule candidates is fairly straightforward. They communicate to the candidate’s teams that the schedule is first come first serve. If you reach out first for the time slot of your choosing, you get it. Period. Some candidates reach out late and, of course, don’t get their pick. Scheduling on the campaign side isn’t as simple as you’d think.

Outside of the other commitments and travel plans the candidates have in place, picking the right time to present at the Political Soapbox can be key. Candidates have various strategies to target certain voting blocks, so if a candidate’s team 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.

Smith explained, Rep. Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden were among those they thought would completely miss their times. If that happens, 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 credits his speed to his former 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 the Iowa State Fair “Cast Your Kernel.”

Before their Political Soapbox talk, 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 attendess. Although the Des Moines Reigster 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 attendence. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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