IA State Fair Brings Out Potential 2012 GOP Candidates

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DES MOINES, IA - It's August, it's 90 degrees and the Iowa State Fair is officially in full swing. As many as 110,000 people a day visit the fair here in Des Moines. It's an experience not to be missed - a rule that especially applies to politicians who want to run for President. Because as any Presidential candidate knows, you can't win the White House without going through Iowa first.

On Thursday, the fair's opening day, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty showed up at the fair to mingle with fellow Republicans, flip a few pork chops at the Iowa Pork Producers tent - a long time fair tradition, and raise his profile in a state where more than half of voters currently do not recognize his name, according to one recent poll.

During one of his live radio interviews at the fair, Governor Pawlenty hinted he would make his decision about running for President in 2012, early next year.

Here's a quick exchange from the radio show on Thursday.

Host: "Let's get to the politics thing, why do you want to be president ?"Pawlenty: "Well, I didn't say I did... "

Host: "Yes ya did, you're here in Iowa. You're in Iowa, it's the first day of the fair. (laughs)"

Pawlenty: "In all seriousness I'm going to decide that early next year."

Gov. Pawlenty went on to say that "outside Minnesota, most people don't know who I am yet."

Another potential presidential contender, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, showed up at the fair Friday with his wife, Callista, to sign copies of his new book at the Iowa Republican Party's booth. A long line of fans waited patiently for close to an hour for Gingrich to show up, when he finally did, he got a warm welcome from most. As he's said in the past, Gingrich told us he and his wife will decide his future political plans sometime in early 2011. For now, he's focused on the 2010 midterm elections and helping Republicans across the country get elected.

Aside from all the speculation over who will and won't run for president in 2012, politicians who visit the Iowa State Fair know one thing for sure, they won't leave here hungry. With endless amounts of deep fried food on a stick to choose from, it really is possible to gain about five pounds in one day!

Gov. Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, paid a visit to one of the fair's several cheese curds booths (deep fried balls of cheese = delicious!) After that, it was time for the classic state fair photo opportunity, flipping a few Iowa grown pork chops over the grill. Newt Gingrich says he refuses to eat a deep fried snickers bar, but is encouraging some of his younger staff to try one. Gingrich admits his biggest temptations at the fair are deep fried turkey legs and soft serve ice cream.

Photo Credits:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the Iowa Fair on Thursday, Aug, 12. (Fox News Photo)

Newt Gingrich at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, Aug. 13. (Fox News Photo)