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In Iowa, long-shot candidates court voters, too

The front-runners weren't the only ones seeking Iowans' support on Saturday.
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to fairgoers at Iowa State Fair, Aug. 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Ia. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to fairgoers at Iowa State Fair, Aug. 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Ia. 

DES MOINES, Iowa – Though he paled compared to Hillary Clinton on Friday, presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders saw a warm welcome at Saturday’s Iowa State Fair.

Sanders spoke as Donald Trump’s personal helicopter circled overhead giving kids rides and carrying the candidate to and from the fair.

“Oh, there’s Donald Trump,” Sanders remarked, before deadpanning, “I apologize, we left the helicopter at home.”

“I want to thank the people of Iowa for their courage in voting for Obama in 2008 and what you showed is that a state which is mostly white could go beyond the color of a candidate's skin and vote for somebody based on their character and their ideas,” he said.

RELATED: Trump, Clinton face off in Iowa

The Democratic upstart is surging in polls nationwide and here in Iowa, where he’s ranked second according to the most recent CNN/ORC poll. Sanders spoke mostly of his key talking points – abolishing Citizens United and getting big money out of politics, making college affordable, and reforming the prison system – but applauded Iowans for voting for President Barack Obama in 2008.

Fifteen minutes before Sanders took the traditional soapbox to speak, dozens marched through the fairground chanting “political revolution! Political revolution!” and joining the several hundred attendees who crowded around to hear the Vermont Democratic senator speak.

The soapbox – a four-foot tall platform for candidates erected and organized by The Des Moines Register – is a classic stop on the campaign trail for both parties, where candidates get 20 minutes for their stump speech and questions. Despite its historic nature, the two biggest candidates visiting the fair on Saturday skipped, with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both opting for press conferences and mingling visits to the full-size cow made out of butter.

RELATED: In Iowa, Hillary Clinton stands firm on email controversy

Sanders drew the largest crowds by far of Saturday’s soapbox participants.

Earlier in the day, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum spoke to a good-sized crowd of 50-100 people and called for stronger national security; after that, he helped grill pork chops. After Santorum, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee introduced himself to a few dozen attendees and campaigned on his record as a longtime politician with experiences at many different levels of government.