Ag Policy Blog

GOP Candidates Aggressively Stumping for Votes at Iowa State Fair

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
Connect with Chris:
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (left) and former Vice President Mike Pence, both Republicans, helped kick off the political stumping at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday and held chats with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday. The fair will be swamped with presidential candidates in the coming days. (DTN photos by Chris Clayton)

DES MOINES, Iowa (DTN) -- While North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum entered the presidential race behind a long list of candidates, the former software company CEO was the leadoff hitter at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday. The fair will host every major GOP candidate running in next year's primary.

Burgum and former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Des Moines Register's political soapbox on Thursday and held "fair-side chats" Friday with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Burgum was trying to introduce himself to Iowans, while Pence defended his to a fairgoer who asked why he "committed treason."

Fairgoers will have a hard time dodging presidential candidates in Iowa. On Saturday, Republicans Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will try to compete for attention against former President Donald Trump. The former president is planning to bring as many as nine Florida congressmen who back his campaign, largely to upstage DeSantis. Trump isn't planning to talk on the soapbox or visit with the governor, but his presence will turn the fair into his own brand of political carnival.


Burgum, 67, a two-term governor, made his money creating Great Plains Software, an accounting program that he sold to Microsoft in 2001 for $1.1 billion. He is also one of eight candidates who have qualified for the first GOP primary debate set for Aug. 23.

After his fair visit, Burgum held a BBQ and spoke at a campground near Waukee, Iowa. DTN asked Burgum why farmers would support him over other candidates.

"I'm the only one on the (debate) stage that actually grew up farming and working on a farm and working at a grain elevator or working on a ranch. I start with that because some of this is in my blood as a multigenerational ag family in North Dakota," Burgum said.

He added that food security is also national security, but he brought back the issue to one he repeated during the day that the federal government is overburdening businesses with too many regulations. Burgum pointed to his state's work on the waters of the U.S. rule.

"We were the tip of the spear fighting against the waters of the U.S. in North Dakota," he said, adding, "That has become a full-time job pushing back against all of the burdens that we have. I feel like the two industries that the Biden administration is trying to eliminate are both energy and agriculture."

Last week, the North Dakota Public Service Commission rejected a permit for a carbon pipeline project led by Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions. The pipeline projects have drawn opposition from landowners across Iowa, where at least three projects are vying to take carbon emissions from ethanol plants to sequester in the ground. Burgum, however, said he supports the pipelines as a way to "deal with the carbon problem" while boosting biofuel production.

"I hear people say 'Oh, it's brand-new technology and it's unproven,' but we've had CO2 pipelines in North Dakota for 22 years, and we've sent 42 million tons of CO2 from the U.S. to Canada for enhanced oil recovery," Burgum said, adding, "We've got two ethanol plants in North Dakota that are currently taking their CO2 off of their plants and sequestering it right now. And, believe me, all of those guys are happy because they are getting more for their ethanol because they can sell into decarbonized markets where people are willing to pay a premium."

Unlike other GOP candidates, Burgum doesn't litter his speeches with terms such as "woke." Instead, he highlights the economy, energy security, national security and border security. He also stresses that problems such as climate change can be solved by "innovation, not regulation." The country is in a cold war with China and should not be cutting back on fossil fuels to end up buying rare-earth minerals from China, he said.

"We can win the cold war with China, but only if we get our economy sprinting," Burgum said, "only if we use our energy, not just for energy independence, but energy dominance, energy superpower of the U.S. We can do it, but we're not right now."

Burgum later told reporters the U.S. can produce more fossil fuels and still produce lower emissions. "If people want low-carbon fuels, we can give it to them."

Tom Kuntz, 73, a retired farmer from Burlington, Iowa, was sporting a Burgum hat Thursday waiting for him to speak. Kuntz wanted to hear Burgum because he and his wife used Burgum's accounting software on their farm.

"It took us a long time to find a really good software package for accounting, and his was the best. When we needed service, we got amazing service from them. I really wanted to make sure he was on the debate stage. That gentleman has the right to be on the debate stage and be heard about why he should be president."


On the soapbox, the former vice president Pence, 64, said he may be "well-known," but people don't know him well. Pence leaned in on his Midwest roots as former governor of Indiana, "a place a whole lot like Iowa," he said.

Talking about his time leaving the White House, "We bought five acres and a pond, I got a Ford pickup truck, I got a John Deere riding mower."

Talking about the economy and the federal budget, "I think this country is in a lot of trouble," Pence said. In two-and-a-half years, Pence said, President Joe Biden "has weakened this country at home and abroad."

Pence said conservative principles will bring the country back to more prosperous times. "That gusher of spending in Washington, D.C., caused the worst inflation in 40 years. The war on energy has caused gas prices to go up. They jumped again just last week. Those open border policies in the Southern border have created the worst border crisis in American history."

The former vice president talked about Americans willing to help each other in natural disasters as one reason for his faith in the country.

"The American people are the most generous, idealistic, faith-filled people the world has ever known. We just need a government as good as our people."

Pence took questions and an audience member asked Pence why he "committed treason" on Jan. 6, 2021, when he certified the election results that elected Biden as president. Pence replied with a long answer citing Article II of the Constitution. He then criticized Trump and repeated a comment he has often made that no one person is above the Constitution.

"I truly do believe that the people deserve to know that, on that day, the former president asked me to choose him over my oath to the Constitution. I chose the Constitution," a comment that drew cheers and applause.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @ChrisClaytonDTN


To comment, please Log In or Join our Community .