Presidential Hopefuls Court Local Politicians in Early-Voting States Like Iowa

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker entered a fundraiser in a cavernous barn here on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon to the flashes of cellphone cameras and throngs of people seeking a handshake and a selfie.

The front-runner in Iowa among those seeking the GOP nomination was the guest of honor, but he wasn’t raising money for a White House bid. The haul would go to Chad Airhart, the recorder for Dallas County in central Iowa.

“Thanks for letting us come by and join with you; thanks for your leadership,” Walker told Airhart, as the recorder’s supporters dined on bratwurst and baked beans, surrounded by hanging cow hides and saddles. “I’m honored to be here today.”

In much of the nation, a top presidential prospect wouldn’t bother showing up to raise money for a local official who handles paperwork for a county of 66,000 people.

But in Iowa, local politicians are showered in love for one important reason: They are gate-keepers to voters and party activists who will provide access to their networks and commit time to White House candidates hoping to make a splash in the state that holds the first presidential nominating contest.

“I don’t know if spoiled is the right word,” said Airhart, who has endorsed Walker, even though the governor has not formally announced his candidacy. “I would say we’re blessed in Iowa to have this opportunity.”

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