DES MOINES -- The Hawkeye State is the largest producer of pork in the country – and Iowans know it and love it.
But if you don’t – Iowans have some words for you.
“It’s what’s for dinner darnnit,” Dana “Spanky” Wanken of the Iowa Pork Tent Committee told Fox News, as a line of Iowa State Fair-goers wrapped around a corner to buy pork a stick.
So, when non-meat eating Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard appear here Friday at the annual fair – where fried foods, meats on a stick and presidential candidates are ubiquitous -- they may face a tough crowd of caucus-goers skeptical of their diet.
Booker, the New Jersey senator, is a vegan. Gabbard, the Hawaii congresswoman, is a vegetarian.
“You can’t live on lettuce,” Wanken said.
When told that non-meat eaters were coming to the fair to campaign for president, Iowa resident Randy Worth from Pleasant Hill joked, “Are they Democrats? That’s a deal-breaker.” Randy’s wife, Evelyn Worth chimed in, “They should just go back where they came from.”
But not everyone is so skeptical. Jeff Travis, 34, of Sydney, Iowa said, “We live in a different world now...I think Iowan’s are open to people who have different lifestyles: vegan, vegetarian. I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker.”
Another Iowa resident, Peyton Pangburn, the Worth County Pageant Queen, said, “It might cause a little scrutiny and I don’t think they are going to change anybody’s minds...we’ll see how they do I guess best of luck right?”
But some Iowans have beef with presidential candidates breaking tradition. “They will miss out on a longtime tradition of the Iowa State Fair,” said Drew Mogler of the Pork Producers Association. “Every president since Ronald Reagan, which is essentially since the Iowa Pork Tent has been started, has been here either as a sitting president or as a candidate. And had a pork chop or grilled."
He added, “That’s up to them if they want to break that tradition. I would say that Iowa Caucus goers are pretty proud of their traditions.”
But United Methodist Pastor Tom Shinkle warns that Booker and Gabbard shouldn’t pretend they are meat-lovers, “It’s pandering...the people that work here aren’t dumb people. They get it. Like why are you here?”
Lyra Bristow from Des Moines, Iowa offers more assuring words for 2020 hopefuls who aren’t fans of eating their four legged friends: “I am having cheese on a stick! There are other things they can have here.”
That’s good news for Gabbard – who is a vegetarian -- but bad news for Sen. Cory Booker, who is vegan.
For him, there is “salad on a stick, they can have salad,” Mogler said.