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The pandering in Iowa starts with candidates descending on the State Fair in Des Moines in August like earworms on sweet corn. Some highlights:

Mama’s Boy Fred Thompson introduced himself as an honest-to-goodness former prosecutor who’d once gone after “moonshiners,” referred to his “mama and daddy,” and repeatedly used the word “reckon”—but forgot to remove his Gucci loafers.

Flip-Flop Inside the Pork Tent, Mitt Romney declared that his favorite foods are “hot dogs and hamburgers.” He then flipped a pork chop onto the ground and tossed it back on the grill, to groans from fairgoers. “This is pork barrel the way it ought to be done,” he beamed, “not the way it is done in Washington!”

City Slicker Duded out in cowboy boots and blue jeans with a red hanky dangling from his back pocket, diplomatic frequent flier Bill Richardson grilled pork burgers and sneered at “the smarty-pants set in Washington.”

What a Boar In the Swine Barn, John McCain quipped, “We’ve made far more pork in Washington.” He repeated the line several more times before speaking to a crowd seated on hay bales.

Aw Shucks At Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s September steak fry, 35-year Senate veteran Joe Biden assembled an enormous plywood display showing various candidates’ “ears” of experience in Washington.

Better Off Dead Looking for a spot for a rural rally, Rudy Giuliani’s campaign contacted Deb and Jerry VonSprecken, who own an 80-acre farm in Olin, Iowa. After going through security checks, the couple was informed that the event was off. According to Deb, Team Rudy said, “I’m sorry, you aren’t worth a million dollars and he is campaigning on the death tax right now.”

Stand by Your Ham Back at the State Fair, Hillary Clinton donned a personalized apron reading, “The Other White Meat.”

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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