DES MOINES, Iowa– The two presidential front-runners faced off on Saturday in a pair of dueling press conferences full of theatrics and light on substance.
While Clinton held a demure press availability inside the fairgrounds with a few cows behind her and later walked through the fair to see the famous full-size butter cow, Trump landed in a branded helicopter on a nearby ball-field a five minute drive from the Iowa State Fairground, splashing dozens of waiting reporters and a handful of fans and kids with grit, before bouncing out in his red “Make America Great Again” ball cap, gathering kids around him, and holding court with the press.
“I love children, I love Iowa!” Trump said before answering questions with his usual bombast.
“I don’t think I’ve made mistakes, I mean every time somebody says I’ve made mistakes I’m sure I will at some point, but so far you would have to say, it hasn’t worked out badly,” he said. He pushed back against questions about when he’d release more policy specifics – he said he’ll release an immigration policy report on Sunday -- though he insisted the media wants it more than voters.
He defended his decision not to do the traditional state fair soapbox because it’s hosted by The Des Moines Register, a mewspaper he said “is not relevant.” The paper called on Trump to quit the race in an editorial earlier this summer and he has lambasted them ever since.
After taking a half dozen kids and a few parents up for a helicopter ride, Trump headed off to the fairgrounds in a golf cart, calling out to comment on this reporter’s looks as he rode down the street.
Meanwhile, less prominent candidates -- including former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- took the traditional route to stand atop the soapbox to pitch themselves to voters for a 20-minute period, answering questions or making abbreviated versions of their stump speeches.
Near lunchtime, past countless fried-food stands, Clinton spoke at podium where she fielded questions from the press as a handful of fans looked on.
Clinton defended her record against Republicans, and defended her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state, a scandal that has plagued her campaign from its onset and recently, Clinton announced she’d send her server to the FBI to investigate its security.
“I never sent classified material on my email, and I never received any that was marked classified,” Clinton said, a remark that seems to acknowledge an intelligence official’s recent finding that material she emailed about was later classified.
Beloved veteran and recently retired Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin joined Clinton to promote his recent endorsement.
“She has the experience, she has the values, she knows how to fight and she knows how to work with other people to get the job done and that’s what we need in the White House in the next eight years,” he said.
Clinton and Trump did not run into each other during their time in the fair; asked what he’d do if he ran into Clinton, Trump said only that he’d “say hi.”