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Editor's note: Dr. David P. Redlawsk is chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. An expert on the Iowa caucuses, he is spending six months in the state following U.S. presidential candidates.

DelawareOnline will be checking in regularly with Redlawsk as he talks with voters, attends candidate events and conducts surveys. You can also follow his travels on Twitter @DavidRedlawsk.

The Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair attracts political candidates the way it attracts people looking for every kind of fried food on a stick. They come there because that’s where Iowans are in mid-August.

They also come to speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox. The Soapbox is a stage – surrounded of course by hay bales; it is Iowa, after all – a microphone, and twenty minutes. Candidates may do what they want with the time.

It is located on the Grand Concourse, so people stop and listen as they walk by.

These days, of course, people also arrive up to two hours ahead to get the best position to see their candidate up close. That would not be so bad except it is usually 1,000 degrees in the sun, 150% humidly, or pouring rain. Or all of these at once.

When the Soapbox was over 23 candidates had spoken, and I heard them all. This includes William Weld, former GOP Governor of Massachusetts, who is tilting at windmills in his effort to challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.

All of the speeches are available on the Des Moines Register website.

A global event

One of the interesting aspects of the Soapbox was how many “caucus tourists” were there. People came to see the candidates from states all over the country: Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, as well as overseas, including one man from Spain.

They all have in common that they came to the Iowa State Fair specifically to listen to the candidates, and most were there for three straight days. Oh, and I was interviewed by Finnish TV about what’s happening in Iowa.

No one did particularly badly at their Soapbox speech, though the crowd was disappointed in those who did not take questions: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tim Ryan, and Joe Biden. All of the others followed Iowa tradition and left time for Q&A.

From a crowd size standpoint, it was Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar ahead of the pack. Klobuchar benefits from being from next door, in Minnesota. But while Bernie’s crowd as large, it was not as pumped as I remember from 2016.

How is Joe Biden doing?

Joe Biden had a good crowd, but his speech was on Thursday, and the real crowds come over the weekend. And unfortunately for him, he seemed unsure of how long he had; not sure if his staff failed to brief him correctly.

My take on Biden’s Soapbox speech:

What’s going on in Joe Biden’s campaign?

Amid all of the talk about Joe Biden’s gaffes and the not so subtle undercurrent that perhaps he’s not up to the task of running for president, comes this:

Pete Buttigieg may be on the move in Iowa

One of the current mysteries of the 2020 Democratic race in Iowa is the difference between Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s standing in the polls (abysmal, nationally, slightly better in Iowa) and the enthusiastic crowds he is drawing in here. In rural Iowa Wednesday he drew well over 200 to a speech on his new rural/agriculture policy. He’s drawing in the small cities, too.

The winnowing of the field is underway

One down (well, two actually, anyone remember Rep.. Eric Swalwell D-CA?), many, many more to go.

The upcoming September Democratic debate is winnowing the field slightly.  Former CO governor John Hickenlooper has quit, recognizing he has no money, no polling, and no prospects, and would not have made the debate.

It’s likely many more won’t qualify; we will know in two weeks how many Democrats will be on the stage. The question is how soon those who don’t make it begin to seriously reassess their prospects.

We'll be regularly posting observations from Dr. Redlawsk throughout the caucuses. Stay tuned for more.

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