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Politics In the News: Presidential Candidates Court Iowa


And let's turn now to the presidential campaign. We're at that point in the calendar where candidates are dutifully making their way to the Iowa State Fair. This weekend some big names there - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And not even the temptation of deep-fried cherry pie could keep people from asking Clinton about her emails. For more, we turn to NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea in Des Moines. Hey, Don.


GREENE: So Hillary Clinton still dogged by questions about this private email server she had at the State Department. What is she telling the people of Iowa?

GONYEA: Well, her response has gotten a bit more aggressive. Remember, she did agree to turn over her private email server to the FBI last week. At the same time, a letter went out to supporters with talking points to defend her, basically saying this controversy is all nonsense. Then came this weekend in Iowa. Let's start Friday night in Clear Lake - not at the fair, but Friday night in Clear Lake, she spoke to party activists - her first reference to the emails came in the form of a joke about the social media site Snapchat where photos automatically disappear just seconds after you open them. Here she is.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: By the way, you may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account.


CLINTON: I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.


GREENE: Oh, my.

GONYEA: So you get a taste there, right? Then later in the same speech, more on the emails with Clinton getting cheers when she said it's all about politics. It's the same old Republican games.

GREENE: So that was, though, a speech - I mean, an organized speech. The thing about the fare, I mean, these candidates actually have to go there and talk face-to-face with voters, right? I mean, are things different there?

GONYEA: Well, you know, she did all the usual photo ops at the fair. This was on Saturday - you know, the cows, eating a pork chop on a stick. But she did not stop by the Soapbox - that's that stage sponsored by the Des Moines Register, where candidates stand really close to the public and give a short speech and then maybe take questions. But there can also be relentless heckling from the crowd at that event. Ask Mitt Romney about that. So she skipped that scene and did get some criticism for it. I should say that Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, was at the Soapbox on Saturday. And he drew a really, really, really big crowd.

GREENE: And how big was the Donald Trump turnout?

GONYEA: Donald Trump did not go to the Soapbox, but - metaphor alert here, David - he hovered over the whole fair this weekend, literally in his helicopter.

GREENE: All kinds of metaphors you can draw from that.

GONYEA: Yes. He landed eventually. He did the tour. He was supposed to go to the butter cow, but the throng following him was too big. So he never got there for that all-important photo op.

GREENE: Well, and Donald Trump made some news this weekend by doing something, you know, not that exciting necessarily, but he did something that his critics have said he hasn't done enough of - he actually put out a position paper, right?

GONYEA: His first Trump for President position paper. This one is on immigration. He again calls for the building of a wall and again says the Mexican government will be forced to pay for it. On NBC's "Meet The Press" yesterday, he talked about it. He said he'll repeal President Obama's executive order protecting the so-called Dreamers from deportation. Those are the young people brought to the country illegally by their parents. Here he is talking with Chuck Todd.


DONALD TRUMP: We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in....

CHUCK TODD: So you're going to split up families? You're going to deport children.

TRUMP: Chuck, no, no. We're going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together

TODD: But you're going to keep them together - out?

TRUMP: They have to go.

TODD: What if they have no place to go?

GONYEA: And he promises more position papers on the economy, ISIS, other topics coming.

GREENE: All right, Don. Fried food as good as always?

GONYEA: Always, but I skipped it (laughter).

GREENE: Oh, Don, I'm disappointed. NPR's Don Gonyea in Des Moines where he has been spending time at his second home, the Iowa State Fair. Thanks, Don.

GONYEA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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