DES MOINES, IOWA — The Steak Fry has become an Iowa politics tradition, established by longtime liberal lion Senator Tom Harkin and now run by the Polk County Democrats. For presidential candidates, it’s a huge opportunity to speak to a lot of people. On Saturday, a record crowd of more than 12,000 showed up to hear the slew of Democratic candidates, including both Texans, make their pitches.
Although Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro remain in single digits — yesterday’s latest poll by The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom have O’Rourke at 2% in Iowa and Castro at about 1% — both received encouragingly strong responses from the crowd.
O’Rourke’s campaign went all-in on the so-called ‘sign wars’ as a show of force that his candidacy is viable and enjoys swaths of enthusiastic supporters. His backers even built a floating sign for attendees to see as they drove through the entrance of the Steak Fry.
Castro kicked off his speech with a call to Democrats in the U.S. House. “It is time to do your job and impeach Donald Trump,” Castro said. “This president needs to be impeached. But if we can’t impeach him, we’re going to beat him on Nov. 3, 2020.”
Trump has been inundated with media coverage of another scandal —this time with Ukraine, which has renewed calls for his impeachment.
While speaking on a variety of policies, both Castro and O’Rourke focused heavily on the subject of immigration in their remarks on Saturday.
“[Trump’s] campaign is up to its old tricks,” Castro said. “And one of those tricks is trying to scapegoat immigrants. We need to reform our immigration system. No more putting kids in cages…no more families being separated. We’re going to keep them together.”
O’Rourke referenced the recent I.C.E. raids in Mississippi as he condemned the administration’s immigration policies.
“Those communities and immigrants, working in chicken processing plants, one of the toughest, shittiest jobs available in the United States of America,” he said. “Rounded up, like animals, separated from their kids…” He argued that the President’s racism reflects the federal government’s attitude towards and treatment of immigrants.
O’Rourke’s campaign noted in a statement following the Steak Fry that he “got a standing ovation from the 12,000 Iowans” after calling for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons.
The ability to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 consistently registers as one of the top qualities Iowa voters are looking for in their nominee.
In closing his remarks, O’Rourke spoke to Democratic unity. “So grateful for everyone that’s come out, regardless of what campaign you’re with,” he said. “We’re all on the same team, focused on defeating Donald Trump in November of 2020.”
Castro closed his remarks by saying he looks forward to saying “adiós” to Trump once he’a standing on the White House lawn as president.
Photos: Jake Bullington/The Texas Signal