The rumored next star of the reality show The Bachelor is quickly becoming Iowa's most visible political celebrity. [Update: ABC has announced Soules will be the next Bachelor.]
Chris Soules, a scruffy farmer from Arlington, was judging the Iowa Farm Bureau's cookout contest at the Iowa State Fair when Texas Gov. Rick Perry blazed through on Tuesday. Perry, who was in the midst of a four-day swing to support Iowa Republicans up for election this fall while laying the groundwork for a repeat presidential bid, greeted Soules with a handshake as he toured the contest and the pair chatted briefly out of earshot before posing for a photo.
"Enjoyed meeting Chris from the bachelor at the Iowa State Fair today," Perry's account tweeted. Soules retweeted him.
But Perry was hardly the first Republican 2016 hopeful to meet Soules, who has been ubiquitous at the State Fair and around Des Moines in recent days. Earlier this month, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio met the reality television star at the annual party hosted by Iowa GOP bigwig Bruce Rastetter. "Rubio Gains Notice, But 'Batchelorette' Hunk Steals Show," blared the Des Moines Register in a headline on Sunday.
Soules' political affiliation is not publicly known, but attendees at the Rastetter event said he volunteered that he was a Republican. Soules would hardly be the first celebrity endorser should he announce a preference in the GOP's presidential sweepstakes. Rick Santorum traveled the country in 2011 trailed by a bus carrying the Duggar family of the TLC show 19 Kids & Counting.
"Pretty much every female in her twenties is familiar with him," one Republican operative said. "And probably a bunch in their 30s and 40s who might not admit it so freely. So it wouldn't hurt a candidate to be seen rubbing elbows with that guy, especially for a party that struggles with a gender gap."
Soules, 32, rocketed to the national scene as a finalist on Andi Dorfman's season of ABC's The Bachelorette this summer. Dorfman praised his charm, down-home family, and Iowa digs, but sent him packing without giving him an invitation for a "Fantasy Suite" date. Multiple reports have recently indicated he'll star in the next season of The Bachelor. Soules did not respond to a request for comment.
-Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dias